By Faisal Roble
If everything goes as planned, come October 30, 2016 Somalia could accomplish a major milestone and conduct parliamentary elections since the 1960s, however imperfect that may be. Despite President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s recent pronouncement that the election will take place as planned, there are major logistical challenges to meet this ambitious deadline. Even with good faith, it is still a gigantic task to (1) have 14,025 elders seated to elect 275 parliamentarians at multiple locations between September 24 through October 10, 2016; (2) have regional leaders (Puntland, Jubbaland, Southwest and Galmudug, Somaliland representative in Mogadishu) hand-pick 54 members for the Upper house by October 25; and (3) elect a president by October 30, 2016. All this to happen, while the entanglement on the issue of Hiraan/Middle Shabelle remains unresolved.
The current election model to be implemented, “Enhanced Hybrid,” is a Villa Somalia-produced model which was later on sold to so-called regional leaders. Puntland’s fillip-flopping on its endorsement of this model (mainly the 4.5 clan-based formula part of it) signifies the proverbial case of Somali politics never having to be based on principles. To make matters worse, the prevailing election institutions such National Leadership Forum (NLF), Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT), the State Electoral Implementation Team (SEIT), the Independent Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (IEDRM), are the handiwork of Villa Somalia, in collaboration with regional leaders. No independent or opposition politicians have been given any role in setting up these institutions.
To that end, in a position paper dated August 31, 2016 the Coalition for Change said the following:
“In a manner that is not in line with the Constitution, the incumbent national administration and regional administrations have self-appointed themselves to form the National Leadership Forum (NLF), a body that has since displaced the Federal Parliament in making decisions on the modalities for the 2016 electoral process. At its August 9, 2016, after a series of prior NLF meetings failed to reach consensus on an electoral model, the NLF had opted to adopt a compromise electoral model, the 4.5 clan-based model … Surprisingly, the NLF has single-handedly set-up the rules of the game that would govern the administration of the 2016 electoral process.”
No doubt that President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and his team control all the infrastructures to dominate the pre-election landscape – manipulation of election, media and money. A case in point is on the week of August 18, about $500,000 has disappeared from the Central Bank. According to Abdelkarim Hassan, it is believed that contrary to the government’s assertion that the money was stolen, it was an orchestrated inner circle scheme by more than a lone teller. Many believe it was illegally withdrawn by the President’s handlers to use it towards his election campaign. Another facet of the illegality surrounding this money may interest the FBI; it is widely reported the money stolen was in forged US notes. Where it came from must have immense intelligence interest for the FBI. Worse, the Minister of Interior reportedly secured $5 million from Sudan on September 3, 2016 and reported to the Central Bank no more than only $3 million.
Despite what appears to be money laundering for the purpose of winning the election, a throwback to 2012 elections, there are more challenging factors that may limit the influence of the confluence of what I call the “triple evils of manipulation of election, media and money that are intended to corrupt the upcoming election.
Despite all that, if the election were held today the following categories will by far work against the status quo. After talking to and communicating via telephone and emails with hundreds of Somalis who closely follow Somalia’s affairs, the support base of the President has extremely contracted in the last 12 months. (In the scale of 1to 10, 1 being the lowest chance for re-election, the President may be out of luck in a fair and free election).
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.
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