By Mohamed Fatah
Most elections are either referendum or a choice, especially if one of the candidates is an incumbent. The upcoming election in Somalia is no different. The 2021 election will either be a referendum on President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo term or a choice between a sitting president and an opposition candidate. We assess that defeating Farmaajo will not be easy. However, there is a credible candidate who could win the election and save Somalia from looming political, security and economic disaster.
A Farmaajo second term could cement his vision of Somalia. Farmaajo’s second term will likely be more disruptive to relations between the federal government, and the Federal Member States (FMSs) as well as the international community and regional governments than the past four years have been. Farmaajo’s reelection will be affront to democracy and federalism. He will consolidate his control over the institutions of government, further bending them to his will, allowing Fahad Yasin to remove any lingering resistance. A second term would have a negative and lasting impact, leading to a war on the federal system, and further fragmentation and destabilization of the Federal Member States.
The 2021 is the most consequential election in Somalia history. The upcoming election will either set Somalia in the right direction of constitutional democracy, and federalism or push Somalia back to dictatorship and chaos. This is the most important election in terms of shaping a direction for the future of the country. In our judgment, the opposition doesn’t have a clear strategy, credible candidates and the votes required to win the election. While opposition leaders huff and puff, Farmaajo and Fahad are working in Mogadishu and across the Federal Member States (FMSs) shaping the election, and promoting their preferred parliamentarian candidates.
We believe that former President’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed although have the name recognition, their past electoral losses, and their government’s performance decreases their chances. If Hassan Sheikh Mohamud or Sharif Sheikh Ahmed are selected by the opposition, the next election will not be a referendum on Farmaajo. It will be a choice between Farmaajo and the opposition. Farmaajo is ineffective and corrupt, but he will be re-elected because Hassan Sheikh and Sharif Sheikh are less appealing.
We also believe former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre does not have a realistic chance to win. Kheyre served in the government and for three and half years supported Farmaajo’s failed policies. Kheyre suffered humiliating defeat in the parliament with 170 of the parliaments 178 MPs in attendance backing the motion to remove him. Therefore, he does not have the political muscle, base and track record required to challenge his former boss who easily orchestrated a no confidence vote to remove him.
The remaining candidates are not serious. They are nothing but opportunists seeking to gain fame and fortune. I have a better chance landing on the moon than any of them winning the election. I am not an astronaut and the final moon landing was in December, 1972.
Puntland State, Jubaland State, opposition groups and the Upper House have led the charge for federalism and against Farmaajo’s unconstitutional overreach and expansive views of presidential power. With Mr. Yasin and proxy allies supporting Farmaajo has implemented “unitary government theory,” this authority ignored the provisional constitution, rule of law, democratic norms, and federalism, claiming unchecked authority over the Federal Member States. Farmaajo with the assistance of his sidekick Mr. Yasin corrupted institutions and state elections to seize power in Southwest, Hirshabelle, Galmudug, and parts of Jubaland, while silencing the federal parliament.
Defeating Farmaajo and saving Somalia from looming disastrous second term that will likely finish federalism requires a leader to coalesce around as the best alternative to prevent Farmaajo’s reelection. We believe the current oppositions who have been tested before, lack good strategy, track records, credible figures, and an alternative vision to win the election. They couldn’t even bring to terms their Federal Member States constituents in which Mr. Farmaajo has defeated them time and again on their turf!
During the recent opposition conference in Mogadishu, the question pre-eminent political leaders and intellectuals asked “Can the Opposition Win?”. In little over a month before the presidential election, the opposition is Mogadishu-centric, divided and lacks credibility. The opposition are entering the campaign for the upcoming election in greater disarray than any time in the past four years. Although the Hassan Sheikh and Sharif Sheikh factions have muted their rivalry and disputes in public, intraparty, clan and sub-clan differences over the leadership will probably break into view at any time.
One of the principal factors, which has been working against Farmaajo has been allegations of corruption, the unfolding security issues, and the crisis with Kenya. The opposition lacks credibility to attack Farmaajo on these issues. The problem within the opposition is that they are running 2012 and 2017 election strategies and continue to look towards only Mogadishu, instead of coordinating an inclusive national opposition response with diverse political heavyweights, drawn from their national opposition. In our judgement, the opposition is not ready for the election and will probably lose to Farmaajo, because the current opposition leaders evoke little confidence and enthusiasm. Even if the opposition held together, we believe they lack credible voices who can unify a national opposition.
We judge that Said Abdullahi Deni, the President of Puntland, and a leading political figure offers the best prospect to defeating Farmaajo and saving federalism. Deni has worked well with his counterparts in the Federal Member States including Galmudug, Southwest and Jubaland. He has also worked well with the international community and regional governments. He is the president of the largest region with over four million people and he has the experience as a former minister and former member of parliament.
We assess that if Deni runs for president in the upcoming election, he can easily unify the opposition in Mogadishu and across the federal states to defeat Farmaajo. Two months before the election, Farmaajo’s standing has slumped as the nation focuses on the election, and chaotic government, revealing his corrupt and self-absorbed approach to governing the nation.
We also assess that if Deni enters, the race will become what Farmaajo most fears; a referendum of his chaotic leadership. Somalia needs pragmatic, calm and steady hands to Farmaajo, and Dani offers a clear and best alternative to the current regime. Mr. Dani’s greatest asset is his long-established relations with the political class in Mogadishu and across the Federal Member States.
When the president of Somalia speaks, Somali people listen. That’s especially true in the current moment when honesty, integrity, vision, calm, and steady leadership is urgently required. A mercurial Farmaajo at a time when Somalia needed a pragmatic leadership has unleashed his National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and military forces to undermine federalism and corrupt government institutions. Farmaajo and his allies have been lawless and represent an enduring threat to Somalia.
After four years of Farmaajo, Somalia is heading in the wrong direction. Under Farmaajo’s leadership, Somalia is more divided, isolated, and faces a dangerous precipitous prospect of disintegration. Farmaajo has failed to deliver on what he promised “to make Somalia peaceful, and safe”. Farmaajo has also failed the most basic duty which is to unite the people and defend the lives of Somali citizens. Therefore, Farmaajo is unworthy to be reelected and to lead Somalia again.
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