Somalia’s 2020/2021 election scenarios amid year of challenges

Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame is the leader of Wadajir Party and former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation

Elections in Somalia are approaching, with the mandate of the current parliament set to end in 8 months and that of the president in 10 months.
However, it is not clear how or what model of elections will take place in the country.

There is an electoral law approved by parliament and signed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, but it faces technical, financial and political challenges before it comes to effect.

Article 10 of the National Electoral Law states that the country’s electoral model shall be Majority Electoral System, which is based on what is called First Past the Post.

This article also requires every political party to have candidates for at least 50 per cent of the seats of both Houses of the Federal Parliament.

One essential thing is to create 275 nationwide constituencies. This is not possible because many parts of the country are under the control of Al-Shabaab and the elections cannot take place in Somaliland. So, where will the elections take place for the people from Somaliland or those whose constituencies are under Al-Shabaab control? What shall be done about Bnadir Region, which up to now has no allocated seats? How can the people of Banadir be convinced to vote for people who do not represent them?

The law also states that contest in the election should be through political parties. So far, 76 political parties have registered themselves, but there is no way to distinguish between these parties. The conditions for a party to contest in an election includes for any party to have at least nine offices in nine of the country’s regions, to have a general council and an executive committee, and to have a constitution and a main headquarters. Also, 30 per cent of a political party’s executive committee must be women.

There are parties who have already fulfilled these conditions, and others who can fulfil them. However, one condition the parties cannot satisfy is the one requiring parties to have the support of 10,000 registered voters. The problem with this is that there has been no voter registration, and the voter registration exercise needs at least three years and $27m.

On the political front, the regional states of Puntland and Jubbaland are still in opposition to the electoral law. Even if they compromise and accept the law, it still faces the task of overcoming the challenges listed above.

It is clear the electoral law cannot come into effect this election cycle of 2020/21, which will lead to two scenarios.

Extension of government’s mandate

The first scenario is President Farmajo’s wish, which is to extend the term of the current government. The excuse will be that the president needs to ensure the implementation of the electoral law. The Covid-19 pandemic will also be another excuse.

The term extension President Farmajo wants will see Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre replaced to pave way for a transition coalition government. The challenges facing this scenario are;

1- It will be difficult to replace PM Kheyre now because he himself has ambitions to run for the presidency. Kheyre is not going to allow term extension in which his position would be used as bargaining chip.

2- President Farmajo does not have many friends. Opposition leaders, most of whom are running for the presidency, as well as the regional states of Puntland and Jubbaland, will not accept a term extension. When Farmajo’s term ends, opposition groups will simply refuse to recognise the legitimacy of his leadership and prepare themselves for the presidency, as they have repeatedly vowed. This will lead to chaos and an uncertain future for the country, which will be a huge setback for the peace and state-building process in the country.

3- It will be difficult for the international community to support an illegitimate government, forcing them to directly deal with regional states until a legitimate government is formed. To avoid this, the international community will have no option but to wade into and guide the complicated political transition in the country.

When former President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan failed to manage the transition in 2002, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) bypassed him and launched the Mbagathi consultation process. When President Abdullahi Yusuf similarly failed, the UN launched the 2008 Djibouti reconciliation conference. The same thing happened with President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, after the UN supported the Kampala Accord hosted by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.

President Hassan Sheikh Mahmud managed the transition well with the help of the international community.

Now, if the current president and government fail to manage the transition, the international community’s involvement will be necessary to avoid conflict and chaos.

The planned Puntland conference

This scenario sees the invitation to a consultative conference by the Puntland administration succeed. The opposition, some regional states and officials from the federal government will likely attend. The international community, which sees the Puntland conference as the only solution that could bring together Somalis, is providing logistic, diplomatic and political support to the conference.

If the conference bears fruit, the most likely outcome would be that the 2016 Plus election model will be used. In this model, all delegates will participate in the voting instead of 50 delegates voting for each seat.

The Puntland conference shall be followed by another convened by the UN to bring together the country’s political leaders.

Since President Farmajo is unlikely to attend a conference held in Garowe, and Ahmed Madobe of Jubbaland is unlikely to attend one held in Mogadishu, Djibouti will most likely be the host.