Somalia is running out of time to choose a system for the election of the president after a meeting to agree on the model, between a geographical and clan-based one, ended in a stalemate.
After three days of haggling in Kismayu last week, the Somalia National Consultative Forum (NCF) failed to pick a model which now poses a major challenge to the United Nations that had given the country up to end of January to reach a consensus before it can start to mobilise resources to help the country conduct elections in September this year.
In December, an NCF meeting in Mogadishu resolved under the “Mogadishu Declaration” for a collegiate system combining the traditional clan-based system and geographical voting (five regional assemblies). However, the meeting in Kismayu saw the emergence a third option which would involve electing MPs who would later vote for the president.
Puntland and Jubbaland leaders prefer elections based on the 18 districts while leaders from Galmudug and South-western favour the clan-based formula that was used to elect President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in September 2012. Even those who favoured districts could not agree among themselves whether to conduct the nominations based on the existing five federal states or the 18 districts.
The stalemate saw the President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke walk out of the meeting with their delegates on Saturday, with the prime minister announcing that NCF will convene another meeting once the disagreements have been resolved.
The 4.5 clan-based model – four major clans plus a cluster of five small clans – has been criticised for being susceptible to manipulation and a source of inter-clan divisions that has seen a high turnover of prime ministers.
Yet, most Somalia stakeholders agree that the use universal suffrage in the 2016 elections as had been planned by the international community after President Mohamoud was elected in 2012, is not going to be possible as the country is yet to establish institutions for a conventional election, even as the country continues to make progress on national dialogue.
Besides the 4.5 formulae, the five federal regions that have been formed since the 2012 elections include; Puntland, Jubbaland, Galmudug, South West and Central Shabelle.
The NCF meeting in Mogadishu had also proposed that 30 per cent of the 275 parliamentary seats be reserved for women, increase public participation in elections by establishing electoral colleges in Federal member state capitals and establish an upper house—the Senate.
Former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, Nicholas Kay, whose term ended on December 29, 2015, had expressed optimism in an earlier interview with The EastAfrican prior to the Kismayu meeting on the political progress in Somalia.
“It is a pleasure to see Somalis building their state on their own. They are converting the dream of a federal Somalia into reality that has produced regional administrations, assemblies and charters. It is no longer a failed state but a recovering state,” said Mr Kay, who has left Somalia after two and a half years tour of duty.
Mr Kay has been replaced by Michael Keating who is expected to help the Horn of Africa nation to manage its transition. Mr Keating arrived in Mogadishu on Monday and met with President Mohamoud.