Somalia’s electoral process continues despite concerns over re-run seats

The House of the People's Leadership Election Committee has officially released the poll dates for the election of the new parliament's Speaker and Deputy Speakers. Abdirahman Duale, Chairman of the House Leadership Election Commission announced on Monday (January 2) that the registration of candidates for the position of Speaker for the House of the People and for the two Deputy Speakers would take place this week between Tuesday (January 3) and Thursday (January 5). The election of the Speaker would take place on Wednesday next week (January 11) and the elections of the Deputy Speakers would take place a day later on Thursday (January 12). Seven candidates are contesting the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker among them the former Speaker of the Federal Parliament, Mohamed Osman ‘Jawari' who announced on Wednesday this week that he would be a candidate for re-election as Speaker for the newly inaugurated 10th Federal Parliament. The date for the Presidential election by both Houses of Parliament has still to be finalized though it appears January 22 is now a probable date. Over twenty candidates are standing as candidates to become president.  

One reason for the delay in firming up a date is the continuing controversy over last week's decision to re-contest five seats after the results were nullified by Somalia's Independent Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanism (IEDRM). Somalia's international partners have also made it clear they believe the National Leadership Forum should consider re-running rather more of the seats. Over the weekend, more than sixty of the newly elected members of the House of the People submitted a motion in Parliament demanding that the decision to re-contest five seats should be rescinded. The motion supported by 67 MPs was handed over to a technical committee to review. One of the supporters of the motion said, the elections in the five parliamentary seats, which IEDRM said should be re-contested, were held freely and fairly, and "therefore we want the parliament to debate on it."

Last week, the National Leadership Forum rejected the IEDRM's call for eleven seats to be re-contested and limited the number to be re-run to five. The five seats are in in Jubaland, Galmudug, Hir-Shabelle, Puntland and Southwest states. Among the seats to be re-contested is the seat in Jowhar in Hir-Shabelle where two candidates were disqualified for their role in the violence that occurred inside and outside the polling center in Jowhar last month in which a number of people, including Electoral College delegates, were injured. However, the National leadership Forum has allowed both to participate in the re-run election.

There are still some other elements of the elections to the Senate, the Upper House and to the Lower House, the House of the People that have yet to be completed.  When finished, 275 members of the House of the People will have been elected from South West, Puntland, Galmudug, Hir-Shabelle, and Jubaland States and from the Somaliland community and from the Benadir region. 54 members of the Upper House will also have been elected from these same areas, with another 18 due to be chosen after the current electoral process is finalized.

In fact, despite all the problems, Somalia has, overall, managed to achieve the long-awaited establishment of a federal state system with the formation of the new regional government of Hir-Shabelle, the final Federal Member State to be created and the election of delegates to the Federal Parliament. This concluded the federal state process, allowing for the next stage of the Parliamentary elections.  President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told Uganda's Chief of Defence Forces General Edward Wamala on a visit to Mogadishu on Tuesday this week that the country's on-going electoral process as a major milestone for Somalia, "It is a journey that is on-going. In 2020, the plan is to have one-person one-vote election and the elections will happen in constituencies and in districts far way."

Certainly, there have been delays. Originally, Members of Parliament were to be directly elected no later than August 2016, and the President was due to be chosen by both Houses of Parliament the following month. It now appears the Presidential election will be reschedules for late January.  Equally, the disputes over parliamentary results and attempts at annulments by the IEDRM have caused some tension between the Federal Government and the National Leadership Forum and the state-level electoral bodies. There have been a substantial number of accusations of voter fraud, intimidation, and selective result annulments. This has been met with some strong criticisms from the international community. A statement from the US State Department this week said the US was gravely concerned " over alleged reports of intimidation and malpractice" in the electoral process thus far. The statement stressed that the Somali Parliament must prioritize timelines for the election of Speakers "to ensure credibility and momentum in Somalia's state building agenda." It also called on the National Leadership Forum to respect the efforts of the electoral bodies to uphold transparent and integral practices as the remaining seats in Parliament were filled and to ensure that seats reserved for women were actually filled by women representatives.
In addition, the whole process has also been affected by the security situation, which continues to be characterized by conflict and instability despite the best efforts of AMISOM and the Somali Armed Forces. Al-Shabaab remains the primary security concern despite the considerable victories that have been achieved and the substantial degradation of Al-Shabaab's operational capacity. A combination of AMISOM, Somali Armed Forces and US counterterrorism support operations has certainly reduced the capacity and influence of al-Shabaab. Equally, Al-Shabaab does still retain the ability to carry out terrorist activities as it showed on Monday (January 2) with at least nine people killed and others wounded by two suicide vehicle bombs detonated near Mogadishu international airport. One car bomber drove into a checkpoint outside AMISOM headquarters. AMISOM troops stopped the car and seconds later the bomb exploded. The second bomb was at the Peace Hotel near the airport and caused substantial damage to the building. Of greater concern, however, is the importance of continuing to create legitimate and functional governing institutions at local level, a critical necessity to lay the groundwork for the restoration of popularly supported, functioning, government institutions across the country.

Meanwhile, Somalia's humanitarian partners are seeking $864 million to reach 3.9 million people with urgent life-saving assistance by the end of this year. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said on Monday this week when releasing its Humanitarian Response Plan for Somalia for 2017. In its most recent report it said that the plan had been developed in consideration of, and in complementarity, with ongoing and planned development programming, that is the framework of a three-year humanitarian strategy for Somalia for 2016-2018. The response plan for 2017, UNOCHA said, aims to save lives, ensure the protection of the most vulnerable, strengthen resilience, support the provision of basic services and enable durable solutions. A UN-backed assessment issued earlier this year calculated that five million Somalis, more than 40 percent of the country's population, were unable to obtain sufficient food, among them over 300,000 children under five who were acutely malnourished, and over 50,000 children who were severely malnourished.