Somalia has taken another crucial step in its bid to conduct much-delayed elections, after opposition groups changed their stance and accepted an electoral boss they had initially rejected.
Mohamed Hassan Irro, who had been chairman of the disbanded federal independent electoral teams, was voted in on Sunday to chair the new Federal Independent Electoral Commission, bringing to an end months of bickering.
Irro, a Kenyan-educated communication specialist, got 14 votes to win the contest after two rounds, while his competitor Liban Mohamed Hassan received attained 10 votes. One member of the 25-member body was declared absent.
For the position of deputy chair of the FIEC, Mawlid Matan Salad, a lawyer, won the contest.
Preparation for elections
The polls on Sunday were a first in a series of selection contests for key electoral teams, including similar smaller commissioners in each of the federal member states, who will be in charge of the indirect elections planned for July 25 to October 10, when the Presidential election is to be held, according to a timeline released last week.
Hassan and Salad had incidentally been chair and deputy in the old commission, which was dissolved following controversy about their alleged bias towards President Mohamed Farmaajo. It had originally been appointed by Prime Minister Hussein Roble but disbanded after the opposition raised complaints.
The election of Irro, in spite of earlier contest on his credibility, is now being seen as a realignment by opposition groups to front electoral officials they feel could enhance their chances.
Irro has been Farmaajo’s ally while his closest competitor Liban Hassan had associated with former Interior Minister Hussein Guled, who is seeking the presidency. Liban Hassan will now remain a member of the commission, as he had been in the old team.
The opposition group, Council of (opposition) Presidential Candidates (CPC), led by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and leaders of Jubbaland and Puntland states, raised concerns about formation of the earlier electoral team committee.
CPC claimed it contained members who were either civil servants, army officers, spy agents or known sympathisers of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.
They fronted up to 67 names including Irro as those to be removed.
On Sunday however, politicians associated with the group were quick to congratulate Irro after winning the confidence of his members.
The election was in accordance with the June 29 agreement between PM Roble and federal member states under the National Consultative Council, which drew the timelines for elections.
On Monday and Tuesday, the electoral committees of Somalia’s indirect polls in federal states were to conduct their election for leaders including chairpersons and deputies.
Subcommittee members appointed to manage the elections in the South West State of Somalia met on Monday in the capital, Mogadishu, to choose their own leader and deputy leader.
In just one round of voting, Yusuf Abdulkair Mohamed won the contest, garnering 10 votes to beat his rival Mohamed Abdullahi Sheikh Hassan who got only one vote.
The sub-committee members of the Galmudug State were expected to vote for the leadership of their team later on Tuesday.
Irro was born in Sablale district in Lower Shabelle region of Somalia in 1978.
He had his primary and secondary education in the same district and his higher education in Nairobi, Kenya, specialising in communication and technology as well as media and relations.
“My longest occupation was in the media, culture and Somali language literature plus enrichment of Somali language,” he told his fellow committee members after election.
Meanwhile, Somalia’s partners including the UN, US, Kenya and Ethiopia commended the Consultative Council for publicising electoral dates. In a statement on Monday, the group of partners said all stakeholders should now support the programme.
“We call on all stakeholders, including the election management bodies, to proceed diligently to deliver on their responsibilities and commitments without delay.
“We encourage the Somali leaders to continue regular, constructive, and cooperative dialogue throughout the electoral process to resolve any issues that may arise. We are convinced that a swift, peaceful, and credible electoral process will help return Somalia to the path of stability and prosperity,” they said.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, European Union (EU), Finland, France, Germany, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), Ireland, Italy, Japan, League of Arab States (LAS), Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, and the United Nations also appended their signatures on the statement.