Somalia’s future in jeopardy amid impasse over elections

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Somalia is facing new uncertainties amid a prolonged impasse over national elections which threaten ongoing efforts to achieve durable peace, stability, economic development and cohesion in the Horn of African nation.

Despite pressure from the international community and regional blocs, Somali leaders are yet to agree on a date and modalities of electing a new president and lawmakers despite the expiry of their terms in office, hence placing the country’s future in jeopardy.

Somalia was set to hold national elections in November 2020 but they were shelved amid logistical hiccups and political differences among the current crop of leaders.

The National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) announced in 2020 that the earliest it could oversee national polls was March, citing inadequate preparations. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose term in office ended officially on Feb. 8, has been unable to find a truce with regional leaders and agree on a timetable for electing new officeholders.

Farmajo who won hotly contested presidential elections in 2017 recently convened a meeting of heads of regional governments in the central town of Dhusamareb to try to end the impasse over elections but no breakthrough was achieved.

Previous attempts by the UN and regional blocs to reconcile Farmajo and two heads of federal member states of Jubbaland and Puntland are yet to bear fruit, hence escalating impasse over modalities of conducting the polls.

Among the three major contentious issues that have thrown Somalia’s electoral process in disarray include the composition of the Federal Indirect Elections Team (FIET) where the opposition has accused Farmajo of filing the slots with his loyalists.

The impasse was resolved on Feb.5 when Farmajo agreed to revoke the appointment of loyalists at the electoral body who had caused an uproar within opposition ranks.

The second contentious issue behind delayed elections in Somalia revolves around sharp differences between Farmajo and Jubbaland leader Ahmed Madobe over the deployment of troops in the Gedo region where 16 electoral seats will be up for grabs.

Farmajo has however refused to withdraw troops from the Gedo region and instead proposed the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) police to oversee the elections.

His archival, Madobe has however stood his ground and demanded to have a strong hand in the appointment of a new administration to take charge of elections instead of the government-appointed officials.

The third contentious issue that has escalated electoral gridlock in Somalia is the selection of senators and members of parliament to represent the breakaway region of Somaliland. President Farmajo and speaker of the Upper House, Abdi Hashi clashed over the matter as the latter demanded to play a major role in the appointment of regional lawmakers.

The contentious issue was partly resolved when Speaker Hashi and Deputy Prime Minister Mahid Guled were tasked with appointing the electoral team since both of them hail from Somaliland.

As the impasse over presidential and parliamentary elections in Somalia persists, there is a heated debate on political or legislative interventions that can be invoked to find a breakthrough. The debate in the capital Mogadishu has revolved around the country’s future after the lapse of the term of the current president and parliament.

Hassan Sheikh Ali, a university professor said the resolution on extending the term of the president and parliament violated the constitution and should be disregarded to avert chaos.

“The resolution is against the constitution which sets the term of parliament and president to four years,” Ali told Xinhua during an interview on Tuesday. “The resolution was unconstitutional and baseless and creates several conflicts and might lead to military confrontation,” Ali added.

Efforts to end the electoral stalemate in Somalia have gathered steam with UN and foreign embassies urging resumption of talks while the Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC), an umbrella body representing 14 presidential candidates including two ex-presidents proposing the formation of a transitional council to oversee elections, citing Farmajo’s continued stay at the helm untenable.

Of major concern is the latest spate of attacks by al-Shabab militants who are determined to disrupt the national polls in order to reassert their influence.

Going forward, there is likelihood the international community and pan-African blocs will intensify pressure on the federal and regional governments to strike a compromise and pave way for free and fair elections.

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