By Faisal Roble
Editor’s note: This is the third of a series of articles WardheerNews will be running to highlight how the Regional Administrations managed the selection of the Upper House members as part of Somalia’s 2016 elections.
If all goes as planned, Somalia will complete the last leg of its indirect albeit clan-based electoral process to seat either a new president or renew a second term for the incumbent, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, at the end of year 2016. Undeniably, Somalia is coming out of a failed state status on its way to transition to a representative federal system of governance. If successful, the upcoming presidential election will therefore mark the icing on the cake in an otherwise treacherous journey.
In Somali political discourses, one often hears in abundance an ingenious and nifty proverb: “hal xaaraani nirig xalaal ah ma dhasho,” or an ill-begotten she-camel breeds an illegitimate calf. There has been a dearth of legitimacy in Somalia’s governance. The 2012 Presidential election was from the get go stained by allegations of vote buying; Hassan Sheikh Mohmoud’s presidency never garnished adequate legitimacy. The nation must feel lucky that unresolved legitimacy questions did not erupt into a popular unrest. If left unchecked, an already poorly performing and corrupt government in Villa Somalia could erode the gains so far registered.
As we approach the Election Day, the elephant in the house is, however, whether a fairly competitive and transparent election would take place. Schumpeter once wrote that “democracy is that institutional arrangement in which individuals acquire political power by means of a competitive struggle for the peoples’ votes.” “Competitive struggle for the peoples vote,” in the final analysis lends Weberian legitimacy to those who occupy public offices.
Michael Keating, representative of the UN in Somalia, had positively contributed to the process when he in a recent letter successfully persuaded regional actors to ensure the exclusion of individuals with past negative history from being nominated to the Upper House. Jubbaland right away responded affirmatively; in the case of Puntland, the nominated candidate who was suspected of having past shady history was defeated, while Galmudug remains to be the only region thus far that sent to the Upper House a man with a serious cloud over his head.
Whether this matter gets resolved prior to completing the electoral process is unclear. Even so, Mr. Keating is more hopeful about the electoral process this time around; he recently twitted that “2016 electoral process is already better than 2012. Concerns about money will be mitigated by secret ballot for house of People.” Mr. Keating must have missed the Somali experience in relation to vote buying. Most transections in vote buying take place outside the ballot box and much earlier than voting day. I will suggest concrete proposals to curtail or discourage vote buying before legislators reach the ballot box.
Tales of Transparency or the Lack thereof
The main menace to having a transparent election is pervasive vote buying, especially when electing the top ticket – the President. In 2012, for example, the incumbent president’s team spent unspecified millions of dollars to buy winning votes. There is a real fear that history will repeat itself. However, with the right will, the course of history can be shaped, as will be shown later.
But let us quickly review emerging data from the recently concluded process to elect representative for house. Sketchy data tells a story of both challenges and opportunities. Hassan Abukar’s “All in the family: Politics in the South West State” paints a demonic portrait of a South West State where power has already fallen in the hand of one single individual, Sharif Hassan. Unlucky you may call this state for “in a nutshell,” writes Hassan Abukar, “the SW is a state in which Sharif Hassan acts as though he owns it.” The most obvious casualty in the SW electioneering is Mumino Saeed Mursal whose harrowing story on how she was deprived of her chance to run for a seat appears on WardheerNews.
As expected, the candidates who emerged victories in Galmudug state are by far patrons of the incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohmoud. The defeat of one of the most talented and aspiring politicians, Kamal Dahar Hassan, and the victory of General Abdi Hassan Qaybdid conveys dishonest priorities of the leadership of Galmudug. Unlike Puntland’s legislators that denied victory to one of its controversial candidates, Galmudug decidedly awarded its man with a serious shady past history to be a law maker. Nonetheless, the principled and critical voices such as that of AbdiWahid Elmi Gonjax offers consolation.
In the case of Puntland, diversity in political opinion worked well to the advantage of the greater good, thanks to years of trying to put the region on the right course. Former President Abdirahman Farole, who is a towering individual in that region’s modern politics, ran a clean election, where no money exchanged hands. Because of his name recognition plus nostalgia Puntlanders lately developed for better days in the past, he won a whopping 59 (90%) of the votes casted by the 65-strong legislators. Undoubtedly, Farole emerged out of this election with a solid mandate and an insurmountable political capital that may discomfort at an equal rate both the current sitting Presidents of Puntland and that in Villa Somalia.
In contrast to Mr. Farole’s clean and successful campaign is another story of a high profile candidate in the same region who barely won a little over 40 votes, but only after spending huge money. To be exact, this candidate, in addition to of being lobbied for by Puntland’s President, had spent about $66,000 paying anywhere from $500 to as high as $3,000 for each vote. Worse of all, two of the highest leaders in the peoples’ assembly were reportedly serving him as his middle men peddling and laundering money to buy votes. Overwhelmed by such a flagrant irregularities in the process, one of the region’s most recognizable intellectuals posted on his Facebook wall a call for a radical institutional change in Puntland prior to its upcoming 2018 elections.
In the case of Jubbaland, however, money and vote buying were not traceable to a noticeable degree, thanks to a commitment by the leadership whose goal hankered on reconciliation through mediation and fair representation. As a result, multiple upsets had been handed down to several high profile candidates.
The victorious emergence of formerly less known and humble candidate, Fadumo Aden Xayd, alias Fadumo Geriyo, tells an optimistic tale of Jubbaland. Her clean-run campaign decisively defeated a well-heeled candidate with a significant baking by heavy weights both in Jubbaland and in Puntland. Fadumo’s extensive linkage and connectivity with a cross-clan Somalis helped her earn votes from every clan family in the regional assembly. Her victory perhaps speaks about a new political engagement in this mosaic and diverse state; it is refreshing and a testimony to the limits to clan-based politics.
Looking Forward: Proposals to curb Vote Buying
Africa’s experimentation with its nascent democratization is replete with rigged elections. From Nigeria to neighboring Kenya, elections are rigged to various degrees. If past history is a lesson, besides vote buying, Villa Somalia may in all likelihood employ traditional tools of vote rigging. Many potential candidates and opposition leaders have on several occasion expressed their concerns to the International Community but to no avail. In a recent meet and great, opposition groups expressed their concerns about potential vote rigging and offered recommendation to Mr. Michael Keating.
The establishment of the Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT) and its six subsidiary institutions at the state level, the State Indirect Electoral Implementation Teams) (SIEITs), are supposedly meant to enhance transparency. However, the lack of representation in these bodies by opposition groups is a major concern as the nation approaches Election Day. Some even equated these bodies with the “fox that attends to the chicken coop.” Despite such a suspicion, FIEIT’s recent positive action that resulted in expanding the list of candidates for the Upper House to include more women was a limited fresh breath to the electoral process.
Allegations that Villa Somalia has already started to use the potent tool of media manipulation is abundant. Critics of Villa Somalia also argue that both Radio Mogadishu and the fledgling national TV are being exploited by the incumbent. Moreover, courts and security apparatus, particularly in and around the voting venue in Mogadishu, are allegedly in full gears and ready to support and uphold post-election results, even when they are ill-begotten results. Mr. Keating’s office has yet to articulate its concerns on these ongoing corruption of the electoral process. These and many other actions are consistent with “the guide to vote rigging” as complied from the African experience.
There are challenges and opportunities facing Somalia as it approaches its presidential election. To curtail potential vote buying, therefore, simple but enforceable procedures can do the job. One such proposal is this: ANY CANDIDATE FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE AND THE ELECTING 275 LEGISLATORS MUST BE REQUIRED TO SIGN BINDING MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU) WITH THE FOLLOWING OR SIMILAR CONTENTS:
- If and when any candidates are found to have bribed, paid or used money to influence the results of the presidential vote, both the results and the candidacy of such cheating individuals shall be immediately vacated.
- Vote buying often happens away from the secret ballot. To promote a transparent electoral process, there shall be a minimum of three months probationary period to verify and determine whether the winner paid money to influence the presidential election. If found guilty, the candidate who won the second place must be declared the winner.
- There shall be a penalty against individuals who paid or accepted money, including but not limited, to ban them from holding any public offices for a period agreed upon, depending on the severity of election rigging.
- The Somali Compact, which the International community sold to the Somali citizens as a blue print to revive and reconstruct the national state, shall be amended prior to the Presidential election to include the MOU concept in managing the reconstruction of the country.
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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