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Somalia parliament approves parts of election overhaul plan

Somalia’s parliament on Saturday unanimously approved proposals to overhaul the country’s electoral system to reintroduce universal suffrage, a plan that has been criticised by some leading politicians.

Last March, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to end the complex clan-based indirect voting system in place for more than half a century in the troubled Horn of Africa nation.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to end Somalia’s clan-based indirect voting system (Michele Spatari)

The central government and four federal states later announced an agreement that a one-person, one-vote system would be introduced in local elections set for June 2024, but the proposals still had to be approved by parliament.

On Saturday, lawmakers approved four of the 15 constitutional chapters that are due to be amended as part of the overhaul.

“The legislators from both houses unanimously endorsed the amended chapters of the constitution,” said Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur, president of the lower chamber of parliament.

The remaining 11 chapters are to be voted on later, Mahad Wasuge, head of the Somali Public Agenda think tank, told AFP.

“Once the 11 remaining chapters are amended by the parliament, the constitution will be voted for by the public,” he said.

– ‘Illegal process’ –

When the central government announced the election overhaul plan last year, a former president and four former prime ministers were among the prominent politicians objecting because, among other reasons, not all of the country’s federal member states had participated in the talks.

Ahead of Saturday’s vote, former president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo echoed the criticism.

“This Constitution, which is being implemented by an illegal process and that will not be accepted by society, will never be recognised as a legal Constitution,” he said in a statement on Friday.

It does not “represent the current political situation in the country and the pillars that were at the heart of Somali political reconciliation and power sharing”, he said.

Omar Mahmood, senior analyst for eastern Africa at the International Crisis Group, said the amendments were “likely to heighten political tensions” and “divide Somalia’s politics further as opposition groups rally” against them.

“Some parts of the country, like Puntland, which already had troubled relations with Mogadishu, will only further distance themselves,” he added.

Somalia is struggling to emerge from decades of conflict and chaos while battling natural disasters and a bloody insurgency by Al-Shabaab jihadists.

The country has not had nationwide one-person, one-vote elections since 1969, when the dictator Siad Barre seized power.

Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland staged in May 2023 its first direct vote since 1969 during local council elections, but then went back to a complex clan-based ballot during parliamentary elections in January.

Source: AFP

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