Monday, October 26, 2020
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Historic Electoral Deal Unlocks Brighter Future for Somalia

By Deeq Suleyman Yusuf

The recent historic deal struck by the Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, the leaders of the Federal Member States (FMS), and the Governor of Banadir that ended the protracted electoral stalemate sends a clear signal that the politics of compromise is the way forward for Somalia. It crucially lays the groundwork for building a stable, prosperous future for the country. With the Somali Parliament sealing the stamp of approval to the new electoral model, the agreement is seen by political analysts and pundits alike as a major victory for the Farmaajo government. It means that Somalia can now focus on the holding of parliamentary elections in November, followed by presidential polls in early February.

The Consultative meeting between FG, FMS and Banaadir region

From the outset, President Farmaajo, the FMS leaders backed by opposition parties and members of civil society, all fought hard for a constitutionally inclusive mandated electoral timeline. The Mogadishu deal that was preceded by the Dusamareeb round of talks demonstrably illustrates an intent by Somalia’s leaders to work towards building a national agenda representative of the true aspirations of the Somali people. With Somalia at the crossroads, President Farmaajo acted tactfully and decisively to steer the country out of a quagmire. He deserves credit for saving the country from the brink and for acting in the nation’s best interest at such a critical juncture.

The deal further indicates that Somalia is now moving toward establishing a genuine, democratic federalism eliminating any obstacles that can hinder meaningful transition. According to Montesquieu, an 18th-century political philosopher, governments are more likely to monopolize power if a functional decentralized system is lacking. It was partly this fear that led the American founding fathers to provide for a federal system and to divide governmental functions between the government in Washington and the state governments.”[1] President Farmaajo’s unique leadership as well as his pledge to advance genuine federalism coupled with the five regional governments’ commitment to the tenets of electoral democracy as enshrined in the provisional constitutional is a testimony to the fact that consensus-building and compromise are a critical element in championing the cause for democratic federalism.[2]

In parallel with the growing popularity of federalism as a principle for state organization, a new focus on the principle of subsidiarity has become apparent. For example, Somalia’s regional entities’ quest for unity and balance in tackling the electoral crisis typically followed the principle of subsidiarity, largely seen as the idea behind the founding of Federative States. Although the notion of subsidiarity has blossomed in contemporary times, it is far from being a new idea as its theoretical foundation is rooted in the works of 17th century thinkers, the likes of Johannes Althusius, Philippe Brault and Francois Sicard who examined the relationship between political power and civil society, or between political communities.[3]

Subsidiarity can be defined as a principle by which “the smaller possible social or political entities should have all the rights and powers they need to regulate their own affairs freely and effectively. It also requires that the responsibilities of the larger social and political entities be limited to the things that the smaller entities cannot accomplish alone.”[4] The path chosen by President Farmaajo means that in Somalia, the principle of subsidiarity needs to be applied to the letter, to ensure that the recurrent political friction between the centre and periphery remains something of the past.

According to Canadian Law Professor, Eugénie Brouillet, subsidiarity and federalism are both based on the underlying values of freedom, equality and justice” as well as “the rules governing the distribution of powers between the federal and federated levels of government.” [5] Simply put, subsidiarity is a principle that adds a degree of flexibility to governance by striking a balance between respect for the diverse entities present and a level of state cohesion.”[6]

In the build up to the decisive Mogadishu deal, under the leadership of President Farmaajo,  FMS leaders, opposition parties, the Senate and civil society groups all genuinely joined hands in a gesture for consensus and compromise to ensure the process was holistic and  inclusive. This show of unity further demonstrates that as a principle, subsidiarity, which has been virtually absent from Somali politics is now being embraced by the political class as a foundation through which democratic federalism can be established.

The electoral deal further highlights  that collaboration among federal and state leaders can unlock the potential of Somalis and the President and FMS leaders should be commended for uniting in a common purpose to make the country a better place for all Somalis. It is a clear signal by President Farmaajo that leaders should work towards an inclusive political process, national unity and subsequently, societal stability that contributes to effective nation-building. Moreover, by acting as a counter-weigh to the state, the role of Somalia’s Political Parties remains critically important as they help design alternative ideas, principles, and policies for governing society. Even through the upcoming elections will not be based on parties, the opposition can help strengthen the culture of democracy within the party and the political establishment in general. On the road ahead, Somalis need to acknowledge that the political arena is not limited to federal and regional forces but that opposition parties and civil society are important actors in monitoring government policies and actions and can be called  upon to hold all levels of government accountable.

While some states may have been castigated for pursuing narrow regional interests in the past, the collective and unified front exhibited by FMS leaders in ending the electoral stalemate shows that Somalia’s regional states have come of age. By closing ranks and diligently working in the national interest, the FMS leadership has established itself as an important pillar of nation-building. More importantly, there is evidence now that public institutions are being strengthened at regional level while the security situation is fast improving. Throughout the Dusamareeb process that culminated in the Mogadishu deal, President Farmaajo and FMS leaders have demonstrated that federal-regional collaboration is crucial to building a stronger, stable, and united Somalia.

Deeq Suleyman Yusuf
Email:[email protected]
Deeq S Yusuf is currently the Director General of the Ministry of Women and Human Rights Development of the Federal Government of Somalia, a former Chief of Staff of Puntland State House, a former Principal Advisor to the PM, a former University Lecturer at Puntland State University and a former Expert Consultant on stabilization at the Institute of Peace and Security Studies – Addis Ababa University


[1] Montesquieu. “Regional and State Government”

[2] Venice Commission

[3] Canadian Federalism and Principle of Subsidiarity.

[4] bid
[5] ibid
[6] Ibid.

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