The likelihood of Somalia holding one-person-one-vote polls now appears less certain as five regional state presidents have endorsed an indirect election as long as it is held on time.
Meeting in Dhusamareb, the capital of Galmudug federal state, the leaders called for “pragmatism” in the face of the short time needed to prepare for elections. A dispatch issued after their meeting on Sunday said they ruled out a direct election where each eligible Somali casts a ballot.
Instead, they asked for an alternative inclusive method that will be easy to conduct within the next four months, the available time needed to prepare for elections as earlier scheduled.
Somalia had planned to hold parliamentary elections by the end of October, and presidential elections by February. However, the debate has often been whether to continue with the controversial clan-based system where elders nominate delegates or go for universal suffrage, which would be a first in five decades.
On Sunday, the five federal state leaders instead invited President Mohamed Farmaajo and his Premier Hassan Khaire to discuss an “alternative” but inclusive method, which they argued should be conducted within schedule. A universal suffrage, they argued, would be unfeasible given the “limited” time.
Presidents Said Abdullahi Deni of Puntland, Ahmed Mohamed Madobe of Jubaland, Ahmed Abdi Karie Qoorqoor of Galmudug, Abdiaziz Laftagareen (South West) and Mohamed Abdi Ware (Hirshabelle) had gathered in Galmudug since Friday last week.
That stance means they are opposed to any delays as proposed by the National Independent Electoral Commission. But they said they were turning a leaf in dialogue, especially with the federal government with which they have bickered on issues of economy and politics.
“In a bid to achieve a stable and prosperous Somalia, we agreed on a number of national issues and urge the FGS [Federal Government of Somalia] leaders to join the dialogue,” Galmudug State President Ahmed Qoorqoor, the host of the meeting said on Sunday.
Those issues included cooperating with the federal government on economic issues, opening a platform to discuss national security and electoral programmes
It was not clear if President Farmaajo or Prime Minister Hassan Khaire would agree to attend the next phase of the meeting in Galmudug. Both leaders, however, last week indicated they were committed to timely elections.
“The five federal state presidents are not against one-person-one-vote type of elections. It is just a reality check. There is no way we can hold 1P1V in the next four months,” Mohamed Hassan Idriss, a Somali Federal Member of Parliament told the Nation on phone on Monday.
“Such an election will need time to prepare as has been suggested by the National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC]. There are also issues of lack of cooperation between the federal states and the FGS. We must be pragmatic,” he added.
The meeting itself signaled a change of trends. The five federal member states had often held divergent views on particular issues of elections and national economy. Even in Galmudug, the election of Mr Qoorqoor last January was controversial with some political leaders arguing the state ought to have elected a new president in December.
Galmudug, Hirshabelle and the South West were seen as areas where Mogadishu overreached its hand, interfering in elections. Mr Qoorqoor was, nevertheless, seen as a compromise new leader.
“As soon as leaders of Somalia’s five states end their consultations, a meeting between them and the Federal Government (executive and legislative branches) should follow as the country needs to get on with an orderly election and many issues need to be sorted out quickly,” said Abdirashid Hashi.
Mr hashi is the Director of Mogadishu-based Think-tank Heritage Institute and a former spokesman for Villa Somalia, the official residence of the President of Somalia.
Somalia’s electoral programme was recently thrown into a tailspin after the NIEC said it had neither the money, appropriate laws nor political support to run elections within that time.
NIEC Chair Halima Ismail said the commission will need 13 months to prepare a complete biometric election, or could run an on-the-day registration election in March. Both options were rejected by the federal state presidents and opposition groups.
The commission needs some $52 million to organise the elections but it needs Somalia to put in place acceptable electoral laws to guide constituency formation, an electoral roll, polling stations and dates.
It rejected an invite from President Farmaajo just days before they organised their meeting.