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Somalia’s Transition Option for 2020/2021 Elections

By Puntland Development and Research Center (PDRC)


One of the most contentious issue in Somalia after the collapse of the central state, and subsequent efforts to reconstitute the nation (1991-2000), has been to strike an agreement on an interim representation model that would be used to establish an interim national governing authority, which would then lead the rebuilding process. The Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference hosted by the Djibouti Government in 2000, and attended by delegates representing Somali communities  agreed that the allocation of seats for the Transitional National Parliament be based on a clan power sharing model dubbed “4.5”. Using this agreed model, the first Transitional National Parliament (TNP) of 245 MPs was inaugurated in Djibouti on 13th August 2000. The TNP elected H. E. Abdi-Qasim Salad as the interim president on 25th August 2000 who then appointed a Prime Minister on 8th October 2000 in Djibouti. With these positions filled up, the interim governing authority was relocated to Mogadishu.

The nascent authority was tasked with the realization of three national objectives in three years from the late 2000 to early 2003. These were:
1. Enacting of National Constitution approved in a popular referendum;
2. The reconstitution of the national state that shall oversee the entire territory and all citizens under its jurisdiction both in de-juror and de-facto and
3. To conduct universal suffrage elections often referred to as One-Person-One-Vote (OPOV) election.

The holding of the national election was expected to end the reliance on the 4.5 clan power sharing formula as a system of putting leaders into office. As such, this was an indication that this criterion was only meant for a transition or a temporary arrangement. While it might have been very unrealistic to accomplish these tasks in three years, it is however, a colossal failure that the 4.5 formula is still in use after 20 years. The transition from the clan based system to a democratic one, in particular, was not even in the agenda during the discussions that led to the establishment of first Transitional Federal Government – TFG1 – (2004 -2008), the second Transitional Federal Government – TFG2 – (2009 – 2012) as well as the first Post- Transitional Government – the Federal government of Somalia (FGS1 and Somalia’s Possible Political Transition Option in 2020/2021 5 FGS2) – 2012 – 2016/17. This was due to the great uncertainties that surrounded whether a smooth transition from one government to the next would actually take place.

The approval of the Provisional Federal Constitution (PFC) established a post-transition state, enjoying the status of a permanent government. This has created relative level of confidence of a peaceful transition from one government to next, which is not any more in jeopardy like the pre-transition era (2000 -2012). The beginning of formal recognition of FGS1 by major world players became an indication of the beginning of new opening to the nascent Somali authority in the world arena. In pace with the new atmosphere of high expectation, the issue of holding non clan-based general elections in Somalia by the end of 2016 figured at the helm of the national priorities. Holding a parliamentary general election by August 2016 was stressed in the New Deal agreed by FGS1 and Somalia’s International Partners in early 2013, in London.

To assess the possibility of holding the first post-state collapse universal suffrage-based parliamentary election in Somalia, a two-days meeting was held in Mogadishu on 19th- 20th December, 2015. A National Leaders Forum (NLF) consisting of the leadership of Federal Institutions (FIs) and Presidents of the Federal Member States (FMS) attended the meeting. This was just less than 8 months from the constitutional timeline of 20th August, 2016. On 21st October 2015 the forum deliberated that and agreed it wasn’t feasible to hold the envisaged one-person, one-vote elections and thus agreed on an indirect election as an alternative. Following the deliberation of the NLF, an ad-hoc arrangement was set up which culminated in the election of the 10th House of People (HoP) of the FederalParliament (FB), on 27 December 2016, which was labelled as an Enhanced and Indirect 4.5 Model. The first Upper House (UH) of FB, as it is required by the PC, was also inaugurated on the same day on 27th December 2016. Subsequently a joint session of the two houses elected H.E Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia on the 8th February 2017.

The onus of the transition from the clan based 4.5 system2 to a Multiparty universal suffrage parliamentary election by December 20203 was placed on the second post-transition Federal organs (2016/17 – 2020/2021).


The failure by the current government to fulfill the necessary requirements to conduct universal suffrage endangers the continuity of the historic precedent of holding elections on time and the transfer of power at the end one’s mandate since 2000. Taking away the rights of the citizens and the opportunity to exercise and cast their votes to preferred candidate, would lead to the rule of an illegitimate authority that holds the power by extension beyond its term. Heritage Institute noted in its report of July 2019: “it’s highly improbable — if not impossible – that a credible, free and fair one person, one vote election can be organized throughout the country within the remaining 18 months of the Farmaajo administration”7. The report further noted “an extension would dampen the country’s weak but steady march towards a new democratic culture”.

Confronted with such reality, it was suggested “key stakeholders (the federal government, the federal member states and registered political parties/associations) have the time to engage in productive discussions and agree on workable electoral models for the next election.”

Thus far with no much time left to prepare the country for the 2020/2021 election, it’s unfortunate that not only no agreement has been reached until the present time but also no discussion on this important matter has taken place between federal government and other stakeholders. Election does not, however, include the functions assigned exclusively to federal government by the provisional constitution. In spite of the suspension of federalization by the current  government, Somalia belongs to the worldwide family of cooperative federalism, this requires cooperation between National and State level authorities.

Cooperative federalism is unequivocally explicit in Somalia’s Provisional Constitution because according to Article 51.3 it is mandatory that “annual conference of Executive heads of the Federal Government and the Federal Member State governments shall regularly be convened, so as to discuss and agree on: (a) Strengthening national unity; (b) Security and peace of the country; (c) National socio-economic development, and common market policies of thecountry; (d) Promotion of the wealth of the people; and (e) Information sharing”.

Consequently, FMSs have legitimate stake to claim significant share not only in decisions concerning the organization and conduct of National Federal elections but also all other matters that have national relevance. The second chapter of the PC also provides advanced coverage bill of rights and guarantees their exercise including “Redress of Violations of Human Rights” (PC, Article 39).

Calls by the FMSs, political forums, and active political associations urging president Farmaajo to engage in consultation on electoral matters have not produced any tangible outcomes. This despite the Inclusive Policy Framework agreed jointly by Federal Government and FMSs with the International Community in London on May 2017, the frequent statements by UN Security Council, Special Envoy of GS of UN to Somalia and all Somalia’s International Partners calling for cooperation between FGS2 and FMSs.

A number of independent public policy centers and freelance intellectuals started thinking of options for 2020/2021 election. Among the publicized options include 2016 Plus, Participatory Indirect Election, Enhanced Legitimacy Election and variety of nomenclature all referring to 2016 election as base line. Levels of increased enhancement, participation and election varied between authors but all concur application of 4.5 for the sixth cycle not by choice but by necessity.

Puntland Development and Research Center (PDRC) a renowned research institution undertook an interactive and participatory research on the course of the dynamics that have led to the precipitation into stalemate in holding of election. It could be the publicized direct election or any other type securing the transition to the next Federal Parliament on 27th December 2020 and the election of a President scheduled to take place on the 7th February 2021. PDRC applied multiple approaches to achieve in-depth understanding of the primary source of the current impasse as well as the exploration of opportunities to embark on the Somalia’s Possible Political Transition Option in 2020/2021 path to conduct timely election of the two houses of the federal parliament and the president.

Read more: Somalia’s Transition Option for 2020/2021 Elections

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