Front against Farmaajo bid crumbling as interests clash

Saturday August 28 2021
Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmaajo in Mogadishu in May 27. PHOTO | AFP


Somalia’s new electoral rules are creating unforeseen fissures in the loose alliance between some federal state presidents and opposition groups.

Initially united against President Mohamed Farmaajo, the groups now appear to be at loggerheads this week after a team formed to oversee election procedures decided to dilute the influence of traditional clan elders.

That team, the National Consultative Council (NCC), is chaired by Prime Minister Hussein Roble and includes the presidents of Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South West and Jubbaland states, as well as the mayor of Mogadishu.

The rules, under a new framework for electing members of the Lower House effectively took away the influence of the traditional 135 clan elders registered and who initially used to select delegates to vote for MPs. As it was in 2016, each clan has registered elders who select delegates.

The delegates are then vetted and listed as voters.

Under changes, the delegates will be selected by the traditional clan leaders and civil society actors from each clan to which a parliamentary seat is allocated. The civil society actors participating in the selection of the delegates will be nominated by the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT), which is the temporary national electoral commission. Delegates will be barred from contesting for the electoral seats, and candidates will be required to pay a hefty fee to be allowed to contest.


Political culture

A caucus of opposition presidential aspirants known as the Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC) rejected the change, saying it violates the voting structure in the agreed indirect election, where clans were to retain powers on deciding delegates to vote for seats allocated to their group.

The CPC rejected the framework, arguing it was taking away rights of locals and giving it to federal state presidents who may manipulate the vote.

It means that the upcoming elections for the Lower House, also known as the House of the People, will be largely influenced by federal state presidents, as they could have a hand in determining who passes the vetting to be delegate.

“It has been a recurrent political culture during the election season the ones who are in charge (presidents, parliament and Heads of FMS) to design the election process for a favourable outcome,” Dr Abdinasir Abdille Mohamed, a Presidential aspirant and member of the CPC, told The EastAfrican on Thursday.

“It has been done in 2012 and 2016. This time the new twist is the FMS (Federal Member States) have weakened the president (Farmaajo) and are dictating the process for political domination and possibly a hint of running for the president,” he said.

The Lower House is supposed to fill its 275 seats as soon as federal states complete the election of 54 members of the Senate. Some states have already elected some senators, but the outcome was already causing jitters over rigging.

The running thread has been that federal state presidents’ powers to nominate candidates for the Senate had given them a blank cheque to remove rivals.

Transparency and credibility

On Wednesday, the UN and partners in Somalia, hinting at the recent Senate elections, said transparency will determine how the polls are accepted.

“The partners share with the NCC and other stakeholders the belief that the integrity of the electoral process is critical for the stability of Somalia, and we therefore encourage the NCC to take the necessary steps to ensure the credible, transparent and timely completion of the electoral process,” they said in a joint statement last Wednesday. 

If the framework is implemented, it could potentially draw a wedge between the more than a dozen CPC aspirants with allied federal states of Jubbaland and Puntland. The two states had earlier entered a caucus with the CPC and created an entity called the National Salvation Forum. The Forum was a platform to oppose Farmaajo’s attempt to extend term and delay elections.

“Yesterday, we rejected Farmaajo’s attempt to illegally extend his term. How can we accept federal state presidents’ illegal attempt to rig elections today?” posed outgoing Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan, whose Himilo-Qaran party leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is an ex-President and chairman of the CPC.

Some sources suggest that Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni was laying his own ground to contest for presidency, although his office did not immediately respond to the claim.

“It breaks the CPC-Deni coalition and in turn, the CPC will lose influence in the two states because the opposition had allied with them. It is too early to know if that can work for Farmaajo or against him,” said a senior official in Farmaajo’s government, speaking on condition of anonymity so as to protect his position.

The new framework may have also exposed just how greedy those who were criticising Farmaajo are, Somali political analyst Adam Aw Hirsi told The EastAfrican.

“Electoral management bodies must have the necessary powers and authority to deliver free and fair elections,” he said. “Any role assigned to politicians, civil society and the media must be in support of them. The latest arrangement will surely be revisited.”


In the meantime, the Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC) has rejected the framework, arguing it was taking away rights of locals and giving it to federal state presidents who may manipulate the vote.

The group warned that such election criteria could cause civil strife as the public and international partners were likely to lose confidence in the new administration. 

“The Council is unequivocally opposed to the election protocols agreed upon by the National Consultative Forum,” the group said.

It cited provisions on traditional elders, civil society, and selection and verification of delegates, who will now be vetted and determined by the five federal state presidents.

The CPC said on Monday that each clan should be allowed to select their delegates, through clan elders, with the role of the regional governments limited to security and provision of venues.

The framework seemed to have angered most Somalis, although Prime Minister Hussein Roble pledged to hold talks with all those bruised.

“Somalia people should not accept from FMs what they have already rejected from the FGS,” said Ali H Warsame, a lecturer at East Africa University.

“Somalia’s international partners shouldn’t support any illegitimate selection of the Lower House of Parliament. [The] Role of elders, civil society and FEIT/SEIT (state electoral implementation teams) is paramount,” he argued.