Under intense international pressure to participate in the February 8 election, Somalia regional states Puntland and Jubbaland have now nominated eight members each to the electoral committee.
The move eases one of the hurdles to holding elections in Somalia, which have been delayed since last year after an impasse arose mainly from the listing of polling officials meant to conduct the elections.
In a joint statement on Wednesday night, the two states said they agreed to take part in the electoral process following persuasion by the international community, but called for a meeting of the National Consultative Forum (NCF) before the end of January to address outstanding issues.
The NCF comprises President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and the presidents of the five federal states of Jubbaland, Galmudug, South West, Hirshabelle, and Puntland, as well as the Mayor of Mogadishu.
International partners had voiced concern for the impasse over the September 2020 agreement on the election model, calling for quick implementation of the dialogue through negotiations so that credible elections could proceed as soon as possible.
The partners comprise the African Union, Canada, European Union, the UK, the US, the United Nations, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and Turkey.
The UN, in a statement on Wednesday, said the partners have been pushing for an inclusive election by urging Somalia’s political leaders to pursue compromise and dialogue in order to avoid any uncertainty.
“It is evident that because of the multi-stage system for organising Somali elections, in which there must be, initially, electoral processes to select the Senate, an electoral process to select delegates, who in turn elect Members of Parliament and then both the Senate and the Lower House – the House of the People – are to come together to choose the President, it seems very likely this will extend for some additional period of time,” said James Swan, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).
While the Federal Government and three member states, namely Galmudug, Hirshabelle and Southwest, nominated their respective members of the electoral committees, Jubbaland and Puntland declined.
Puntland and opposition groups argued that the Electoral Committee was composed of spy agents and civil servants loyal to President Farmaajo, which would make the polls unfair.
Jubbaland was opposed to taking part in the election insisting that the federal government must first withdraw its troops from its Gedo region. Heavy fighting was reported earlier this week between Somali forces and those from Jubbaland.
The parliamentary elections ought to have been held in December to pave the way for the presidential polls.
The tenure of the current parliament lapsed last November, while that of the president will end in February.