Friday, November 27, 2020
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Somalia: An election whose integrity and fairness are put in doubt before it started

By Osman H. Yusuf

It’s an election denominated ‘indirect election’2020-2021, a name most probably coined by the United Nations Office in Somalia. Some Somalis adore it because for them it is their clan interests that matter most, not the nation’s, an electoral activity of a kind of competition among persons belonging to same clan voted in by a few electors selected by clan chiefs with some input from the regional leaders and civil society groups, as programmed. The highest office of the land did exert a tremendous effort to make a one-person, one-vote election a reality in Somalia but unfortunately adverse circumstances stalled it.

Eventually, this indirect election could be the theme of an interesting political playbook by foreigners involved in devising the process who view it a very strange way of a distorted democracy as compared to the one they have been accustomed to. And once the election is over, these foreigners believe that such an indirect election, although not in their advice, is good enough for a third world country’s assimilation of a modern democracy. Thus, for the them, under the prevailing circumstances, it’s politically feasible and a well-done job in a fragile country like Somalia. After all, it was the choice of the country’s elite and elders, and the international community whose role and contributions are always appreciated, congratulate themselves and the locals on a job well-done.

However, to see how far the Somali society is still dreaming in the past and not fully acknowledging the benefits of societal interaction and embracing the ups and downs of modern life, let me briefly mention that, as history records, the Greeks seem to have followed a somewhat similar process when many centuries ago they first tried to find trusted managers to run their common affairs. A general meeting or assembly is said to have been convened and everybody was given a chance to express his or her views (direct vote) but it ended up to be a highly tiresome and a confusing exercise with no good enough outcome. So, they changed course and decided to go on with a few selected individuals, a precursor of current multi-party system, who could arrive at a common decision to find a way of implementing a generally satisfactory election of representatives.

Somalis must accept change, strengthen trust and relearn how to conduct themselves in unison with each other in complex and difficult political and social situations and engage in a healing process in the aftermath of a bloody civil war and decades of division, animosity, anarchy and lawlessness instead of wasting their precious time in political bickering, and engage solving people’s problems.

How the indirect election is carried out and how it compares with modern one person, one vote election, assuming that it will be held on schedule?

Will the election be fair and free? It may or may not be.

1. The indirect election takes place in a specific environment with limited electors. Each candidate makes sure by any means that the outcome is in his or her favor whereas in a modern

democracy it’s done in an open environment with no limit of participants or electors; minor irregularities are overlooked in both camps even if reported;

2. Major irregularities may lead to an election overturn in a western democracy but in an indirect election in the country making mention of such irregularities might cost one dearly, let alone to overturn the election but in 2016 serious fraud cases were dealt with judiciously.

3. Selected committees to handle and oversee the election process should perform with diligence and responsibility to preserve the integrity of the election and so earn the trust of the people. The findings reported by the committee on disputed cases deserve particular attention.

4. Money is contributed by supporters of the candidate and is used to finance the campaign activities in a western democracy where candidates give speeches and try canvassing as many voters as possible whereas in an indirect election money, domestic and foreign, ends up in the pockets of selected electors who anyway are satisfied with whatever vague promises the candidate makes and by virtue of clan protection no one is held to account;

5. No personal attacks or lies about candidates are made in an indirect election or it will ignite a clan war of words and probably clan clashes in rural areas whereas in a western democracy there is an opportunity to taint your competitor with as much dirt as you can find and use it against him or her via ads. It is up to the public to believe it or not.

6. On certification of the election, winners in an indirect election now face the problem of repaying money borrowed to get elected. How is it going to happen? Well, there is only one choice: to put his or her vote to the highest bidder of those vying for very important positions.

7. Do the new so-called people’s representative encounter a backlash for their behavior? And, if so, do they really care?

For them, it’s a ‘fait compli’. Come what may!! Clan network protection might not sometimes prevent fatal attacks as has happened after the 2016 election.

8. People’s expectations are unmet and they feel betrayed.
Who to blame? We all are!!!
9. Dire consequences of foreign money:

A heavy price to pay and an affront to sovereignty – foreign interference in own affairs!!!

10. Open questions:

How to tackle and avoid this self-inflicted wound and erratic course of action in the future?

a) Is the multi-party system and one-person, one-vote, the answer?

b) Or, is there a deep-seated problem of mistrust among the Somali people/clans?

c) Why did Somali leaders so far resist the convening of a Truth and Reconciliation Forum in an attempt to put all the negative consequences of the protracted civil war behind us?

Osman H. Yusuf
Email: [email protected]


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