Somalia’s opposition caucus appears to have lost ground on stalling the country’s controversial elections after the Prime Minister urged the organisers to move on with the polls.
The group, known as the Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC) had been calling for suspension of the elections for the members of the Lower House of Parliament, citing irregularities and glaring rigging.
But on Wednesday, Somali Prime Minister Hussein Roble moved to congratulate the State Electoral Implementation Team (SEIT) of Jubbaland State, one of the five local electoral organisers in Somalia, for publishing the names of contenders for the first seats of the House of the People (HOP), the Lower House, to be held in Jubbaland.
“It is a positive reflection, having Jubbaland embarking on the way to hold the elections of significant number of the Lower House seats,” Roble stated as he travelled to Djibouti to participate the Heritage Institute for Policy Study’s Forum for Ideas, an annual gathering meant for intellectuals and people of wisdom to share opinions on the Horn of Africa.
On Tuesday evening, the Jubbaland SEIT, the organ empowered to hold the elections in Kismayu and Garbaharrey towns, respectively in Gedo and Lower Jubba regions of the Jubbaland State issued a list addressed to the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) and copied among others to the Office of the Prime Minister.
That decision signalled that the country had moved from the crisis point in South West, where initial seats offered for contest had elicited complaints of unfairness. The Lower House is part of the bicameral federal parliament that also includes the Senate, or the Upper House with 54 members.
While elections for the Senate ended early in November, having dragged on for three months, the Lower House of 175 members has been more controversial. As it is, 101 delegates nominated by clan elders in conjunction with SEITs are supposed to elect each of the 175 legislators. The Lower House and the Upper House are then expected to vote for the president in a joint sitting.
The problem though is that the candidature lists is the prerogative of the sitting federal state presidents, who have been accused of settling old political scores by omitting contenders or rigging them out.
In South West, Mohamed Osman Jawari’s omission became the indicator of the controversy. A former Speaker of the Lower House, his omission from a list of contenders forced him to allege rigging and demanded that the polls be paused. The CPC joined in the calls and initially, the SEIT in South West was advised by the federal electoral body to cancel the polls for all seats which had elicited complaints. The SEIT in South West defied the call.
With Jubbaland going forward too with 14 seats, it leaves the opposition groups in a dilemma. They had vowed not to take part in elections resulting from this chaos. But staying out means the country could move forward with the polls, however controversial.
The Jubbaland SEIT stated that it will announce when the elections will be held, leaving the door for speculation and also adding further doubt on whether those polls can be completed across the country by December 26 as planned earlier.
“In line with the electoral agreements and associated election mechanisms, the SEIT of Jubbalnd is hereby making public that 14 of the 43 seats allocated in the Jubbaland state are going to be held,” the letter indicated, but only short of date.
Jubbland’s SEIT made the announcement only hours after the SEIT of Banadiri community in Mogadishu had issued a similar letter on Tuesday, stating that all 5 seats belonging to the community were up for election.
The Banadiri SEIT labelled its seats as HOP 034, HOP 084, HOP 105, HOP 265, and HOP 266.
“The Banadiri community’s five seats will be held in Mogadishu,” the SEIT’s letter indicated without specifying dates.
The slowly progressing Lower House elections has so far elected about two dozen seats by representatives of Somaliland, the South West State and Galmudug State.
If the elections of these seats are realised and in the meantime the election of more seats are announced, it will mark a big progress for PM Roble to whom the management of the election processes have been delegated to him by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo on 1st of May this year.
The announcement by the SEITs of Jubbaland and Banadiri community coincides with a statement issued by the Coalition of Presidential Candidates (CPC), a grouping of over dozen top politicians lead by Former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and includes another Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and ex-Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.
The CPC’s statement stressed that they are going to arrange a grand-meeting for the establishment of what they called a ‘National Transitional Council.’ They pointed out that the ‘Council’ will be formed out of politicians, civil society activists, intellectuals, women activists and traditional clan leaders in order to initiate free and fair elections.
“It is clear to the Coalition of Presidential Candidates (CPC) sees that neither the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) nor the Federal Member States (FMS) are interested in the achievement of free and fair elections, whose results are commonly accepted that leads the country to stability,” the CPC’s statement reiterated.
“Based on such an approach, the CPC is going to nominate two committees: one to organize the conference and the other to ensure the security of the gathering,” it added.
So far, neither the FGS nor the five FMS and other election constituencies like Somaliland and Mogadishu’s Banadiri community have responded to the opposition politicians’ strong and often hostile looking remarks.
The CPC’s latest suggestion to initiate a sort of parallel government in Somalia in the form of a ‘National Transitional Council,’ seems not affecting the election process directed by PM Roble and executed by the FEIT and the SEITs. Indeed, the Chairman of FEIT, Mohamed Hassan Irro stressed that the election processes will continue unobstructed.
“It does not matter whether the electoral process is slow, but what matters is that some seats have been elected and others in the pipeline that will eventually lead to a full house,” remarked Irro this week.
He insisted that any delay to the elections of the seats of the House of the People results from the federal member states that do not offer speedy facilitations.
Indeed, the FEIT and SEITs did not even react to a lengthy document published by the opposition presidential candidates a week ago on 9th of December. The CPC appeared issuing their own electoral guidelines with the intention of indirectly altering or even nullifying the existing electoral agreements and laid down procedures.
“The list of the official 135 clan leaders and the council that selects the election delegates must be publicised,” the 9 December statement by the CPC insisted.
“The list of the election delegates must be ensured that they are the ones selected by the clan leaders,” the statement stated, underlining that no seat should be reserved for any particular candidate.
These and other points were raised by the opposition politicians in very demanding manners, including their insistence that they will establish a ‘National Transitional Council.
However, rumours circulating through the social media indicate that the CPC members are not in full agreement on the initiative to establish a ‘National Transitional Council.’
Talking to the media on Wednesday, Dr Mohamud Mohamed Ulusso, a former Somalia presidential candidate in 2016, called it ‘unfortunate’ that the CPC members no longer have a unified vision.
“The CPC members should have harmonised their statements (on the establishment of a ‘National Transitional Council’) and made sure their proposals were put in a logically implementable sequence,” Dr Ulusso remarked, talking to Kulmiye Radio, an independent broadcaster in Mogadishu, on Wednesday.
Abdurahman Abdishakur, the outspoken member of the CPC and a former planning minister, used his facebook account on Wednesday, warning unnamed politicians that he called ‘those lured to false hope’ not to fall on trick being assembled by Farmaajo camp.
“You will realise the ploy when the game is over,” Abdishakur warned, hinting that the Farmaajo camp aims to win the elections by whatever means.
The FEIT Spokesman Ahmed Aden Safina has said on Thursday that the elections are proceeding adequately.
“We have witnessed the Somaliland representatives plus the Galmudug and South West states holding the elections of some House of the People (HOP) seats,” has remarked Safina to the media, expressing satisfaction as more seats to the Lower House will be elected by Jubbaland and Banadiri community.