Suspicions and mistrust as government rules out 2016 popular vote

THE GOVERNMENT THIS  week unequivocally declared there will be no universal suffrage in 2016  despite earlier projections of a possibility of the same as captured in the country’s state and peace building blueprints, otherwise Vision 2016 and Somali Compact Deal.

The UN also read from the same script acknowledging that a one man one vote was not viable given the state of preparedness and security. But the UN Security Council fired the first salvo a day after the Villa Somalia announcement warning against any thoughts of extension of the term of the current regime.

No term extension
In no uncertain terms, the UNSC noted, ‘There should not be an extension of electoral process timelines for either the executive or legislative branches, and underlines the importance of implementing this commitment including through an inclusive process to agree on the model for the electoral process.”
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been categorical of his intentions not to turn the tide in his favour by contemplating term extension and so has parliament. But issues surrounding the nature of transition come 2016 run skin deep. UN special representative to Somalia Nicholas Kay in an interview with AFP a day ago hinted at existence of ‘forces bent on engineering a term extension.’

“There is an overwhelming consensus that there should be an electoral process in 2016,” he said, although he admitted, “one or two voices expressed interest in an extension of the current government’s mandate.” said Kay.

“Article 89 (1) reads thus: The Houses of the Federal Parliament shall elect the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia in a joint session, presided over by the Speaker of the House of the People of the Federal Parliament.’

The voices could be one or two and their abode unknown for now but they cannot be ruled out.

Villa Somalia conspiracy

Opposition members of parliament have also unilaterally voiced their concerns over what they term as arrangement being mooted by Villa Somalia to circumvent the process and ensure status quo is maintained come September 2016. Whereas it may not hinge on term extension per se, the lawmakers read ill motive on the manner in which institutions critical for overseeing the electoral process were created and their office holders selected. Parliament last week approved the leadership of the National Electoral Commission, Boundaries and Federation Commission and the Constitution Review and Implementation of the Commission.

The Forum for Unity and Democracy (FUD ) and the National Democratic Coalition (NDC) in a joint statement this week said ‘the implementation process of Vision 2016 has become a monopoly and a tool for power grabbing and an illegal extension by the President.’

Selection process

The lawmakers accused the presidency of what they note as outright manipulation of the selection process of the constitutionally mandated commissions and the compromising of their independence and integrity and the failure to consult with regional states and national stakeholders as required by the Provisional Constitution.

“These Commissions were not designed to advance the interests of the Somali public, such interests as peace, democracy, justice and equality, but were cynically formed to serve as vehicles for corruption, injustice and vote rigging,” read the statement in part.

Halimo Ismail Ibrahim

The election of Halimo Ismail Ibrahim as chair of the National Electoral Commission has equally not sat well with observers who see it as direct ticket for the president’s re-election 2016. Academician and author Prof. Abdi Ismael Samatar reads mischief in the manner in which the commissions were formed and the choice of the people running these institutions. Samatar observes that the people who formed the commission are the same actors in the political game.

“There should be a prerequisite that those in power either at state or federal level should be excluded from putting together any transition system beyond 2016; you cannot have people set the rules of the game and partake of the same game. This would give them advantage over their competitors,” said Samatar.

Vote buying
Samatar says as things are, 2016 will be 2012 revisited as money will determine who becomes president. “We know how things went about in 2012, they were paid between $30,000 to $40,000 bribe to vote and we see the results now. 2016 will be the same,” notes Samatar.

Halimo has been a staunch ally of president Mohamud since 2012 when she played a crucial role in his election. She served as a frontline official of the then electoral body and though she has kept a low profile politically, she is considered one of the power barons behind the throne. It was no wonder therefore she was selected co-chair of the technical committee during the Galmudug State formation, a process heavily influenced by Villa Somalia and effectively secured by another ally Abdikarim Hussein Guled.

Which formula?

Even as the country contends with a dream deferred-the hope of a universal vote, the 64 million dollar question now is, what form will the elections take and how will it be arrived at?

In an interview with the American broadcaster, VOA Somali yesterday, the president said, “It’s the pinnacle of democracy that everyone who is eligible votes to elect, but there is a big gap between there and where we stand,” Mohamud said. “We never said an election is not possible. There are different phases and different models for elections, and we are aiming for the next best option, but we have not yet agreed on a format to transition in 2016.”

Presidential election
The Provisional Constitution 2012, which is subject to public vote in March unless otherwise provides for the election of the president through the Federal Parliament- the House of the People and the Upper House.
Article 89 (1) reads thus: The Houses of the Federal Parliament shall elect the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia in a joint session, presided over by the Speaker of the House of the People of the Federal Parliament.

Prof. Abdikarim Daud of Mogadishu University concurs with opposition MPs that a mini poll based on multi party system be conducted or the option of letting the regional states to select MPs and then conduct the election for the top post.

Wide consultation

Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Mogadishu based policy think-thank director Abdirashid Hashi takes a cautious approach opting for wide consultation with the public before arriving at a preferred model.
“We went to some parts of the country and conducted surveys and interviewed with the public. People said they wanted them to be the decision makers, that they believed that those gathering in Halane base do not represent the will of the people but because the decision is in their hands, their decision could be valid provided they keep the best interest of the country at heart,” said Abdirashid.

By Roble Billow

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