Whoever wins Somalia’s Sunday presidential election will have to contend with a basket full of issues, mostly problems, for the next four years, ranging from insecurity to corruption.
The election, an indirect one after the government failed to push through for a universal suffrage, will have 39 candidates on the ballot – with only one female among them, former Foreign minister Fawziya Adam Yusuf.
The 329 legislators from the Upper and Lower House will jointly elect a president by secret ballot, choosing from the biggest number of contenders to ever run for the top office in the country’s history, despite the 15 months delay.
The candidates have had a 20-minute slot each to address the MPs as part of campaigning for votes. The incumbent Mohamed Farmaajo promised to change things and tackle insecurity and ensure a legal regime to ensure predicable future elections.
But not everyone is hopeful.
“The reign of mediocrity in Somalia has its genesis in power brokers’ pusillanimous avoidance of enlisting knowledgeable and capable men and women to steer the ship of the state,” argued Adam Aw Hirsi, a former federal state government minister now political analyst. He argued that Somalia has experienced “maladministration” which a new leader must correct.
In 2017, Mohamed Farmaajo beat 21 other candidates, most of whom had dropped from the race long before polling day but still appeared on the ballot. In 2012, there were 22 contenders. All previous elections of 2009, 2004 and 2001, were held outside Somalia for security reasons and had had 11, 26 and 16 candidates respectively.
This election is expected to bring in someone to deal with the al-Shabaab threat, rebuild national institutions, economic reforms and see the birth of a new constitution that will define roles, functions and procedures of government going forward.
Abdirahman Nur Dinari, a former Transitional Federal Government minister for Commerce and a former government speaker told The EastAfrican that the country will need someone who understands the job.
“The person must have government experience,” said Dinari, who was a key member of the Somalia Reconciliation Conference Mbagathi talks of 2002-2004.
“The right person must appreciate Somalia’s choice of federalism, the criteria stipulated as other decisive factors include peace and consensus building capacities and awareness of local dynamics.”
Commentators are of the opinion that various political camps may have fronted their proxies to undercut popular rival candidates.
“Most of such proxies just want to get the title of ‘former presidential candidate’ and don’t care that they paid $40,000 to qualify for the race,” observed Abdalla Ahmed Ibrahim, director of local think-tank East Africa Centre for Research and Strategic Studies. He calls it “misplaced priorities.”
Critics have criticised the cost of running for the presidency arguing that it is elitist and locked out qualified candidates. But the election committee defended the criteria saying it sifted ‘’also-rans’’ while insisting that the mandatory fee is cheaper than the $50,000 charged in 2017. They argued that none of this year’s 39 candidates struggled to raise the amount.
The militant group al-Shabaab has recently stepped attacks in Mogadishu, and last week bombed a security checkpoint, a camp manned by African Union forces and even targeted the venue of parliament where MPs had gathered to elect parliament’s Speakers increasing the security threat.
Meanwhile the country is on the throes of drought and food shortage which has displaced a third of the population.