By Anwar Abdifatah Bashir
A Brief Political History of Somalia Political parties
Multi-Party Politics: 1940-1969
Somalia’s experience with political parties dates back to the 1940s. In 1947, the Somali Youth League (SYL), one of the country’s first political parties, established offices in Italian Somaliland, British Somaliland and Ogadenia territories under Ethiopian rule. With the overall objective of eventually unifying all Somalis and their territories in one independent state. Although several political parties emerged during this period, all of them were cross-clan based. After a long struggle Somalia gained independence in 1960. The two territories British protectorate Somaliland and Italian trusteeship Somalia were united and became independent states on July 1, 1960.
At that time national parliament of 123 seats were elected, with 33 MPs from British Somaliland and 90 seats the Italian protectorate. This parliament elected the first president of the country, His Excellency Aden Abdulle Osman. Four years after the independence the first post independent election took place whereby and in those election 21 political parties participated. SYL won the absolute majority with 69 seats out of 123. Whereby the other 11 political parties shared the remaining 54 seats.
By the 1969 elections, the number of political parties contesting the elections had grown above 80. Many of these parties emerged in the immediate lead up to that election. The SYL expanded its majority to 73 seats. However, when several elected representatives from smaller parties – many of whom had only seen one or two candidates elected – joined SYL, the ruling party’s majority grew to 120.
So far Development of the Current Government
This government which was elected in 2017 February has made a touchable improvement during this short period of time including:-
v Re-building and Restoring its relationship with the neighbor countries especially Horn of Africa countries such as Ethiopia , after the Ethiopian Prime Minister Atto Abiy Ahmed arrives in Mogadishu two and half weeks ago from now in order to robust the relationship among the two states, and in the mean time to establish a lucrative relationship among them. Although the public mood is still remaining, and some people give a serious doubt and expressed that this step is intrusive for sack of a lot of conflation within the agreement between the president and the prime minister.
v Somalia government to take control of airspace after 26 years as Somali Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority (SCAMA) declared which is absolutely milestone.
v Maintaining and Sustaining paying the salaries of the public staff and the Armies as well.
v Dwindling and deterring the corruption among the government institutions which contributes the transparent and accountability amid the three branches of the government, also embraces the attention of the international donors.
v The 7th National Security Conference on Somalia’s future was chaired by President Farmajo and PM Khaire, with the presence of the five Federal member States and Mogadishu mayor. According to the joint statement, the country’s leaders have agreed on national security, preparations for ‘one-man-one-vote’ election in 2020 and national resource sharing model.
v The Provisional Constitution of Somalia , particularly under article 111G gives the establishment of National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) , also this article provides the commission to conduct all the electoral processes which takes place in Somalia.
So, so far the commission registered temporally 15 political parties and that step is salient. Because this step ahead paves the way to depart from the clan based political power sharing which is drastically against the democracy discourse.
Challenges ahead of the government towards Election Discourse
Implementing and applying free and fair election which is based on Multi-party system such a country which is post-conflict and fragile state, and also is recovering the legacy of the nearly three decades of conflicts, civil war, political turmoil, massive natural disasters, corruption and lack of rule of law is not so easy, and it needs cool heads, deep thinking, truth reconciliation among the community. So, in a nutshell there are five main challenges among others, including:-
ü Insecurity : Obviously, some parts of the country are still out of the government’s control completely or partly including Middle Juba Region, Lower Juba such Badhaadhe, Jamaame ,some parts of Gedo Region, Lower Shabelle such as Qoryooley, some parts of Middle Shabelle, some parts of Mudug Region such as Xarardheere
ü Census: Apparently, after 1991 when the central government was ousted , there is no official population census. The last information available on population is from a census conducted in 1975, which published limited results; the results from another population census conducted from 1985 to 1986 were never released into the public domain
On the other hand, currently there is Population Estimation Survey (PESS) which has done the Somali Government along with UNFPA in October 2014 and estimated the total population of Somalia around 12 million and half, and this Estimation Survey is the first extensive household sample survey to be carried out among the Somali population in decades, albeit it is not collectively agreed upon and some criticism was faced.
ü Voter Registration: Voter registration establishes the eligibility of individuals to vote. As one of the more costly, time-consuming and complex aspects of the electoral process, it often accounts for a considerable portion of the budget, staff time and resources of an election management authority. If conducted well, voter registration confers legitimacy to the process. The entire electoral process may be perceived as illegitimate should the registration system be flawed. In the mean time, there is no so far any activity related to voter’s registration, so there is an immense need for it before the action should be done.
ü Boundary Delimitation: Boundary delimitation usually refers to the process of drawing electoral district boundaries. However, it can also be used to denote the process of drawing voting areas (also called polling areas, districts or election precincts) for the purposes of assigning voters to polling places. The periodic delimitation of electoral boundaries is necessary in any representative system where single-member districts or uniformly small multimember districts are used. If electoral boundaries are not periodically adjusted, population inequities develop across districts. In our context, the provisional constitution article 111E provides the mandate to carry on this duty, Boundaries and Federation Commission. So far nothing is going on.
ü Voter Education: As longest there is no free and fair election in Somalia since 1967, but there is a huge curiosity to takes place, because it assists to the election administration in its task of delivering a free, fair, efficient and cost-effective election. It encompasses the basic voter information that every voter must have in order to arrive prepared at the voting station and vote on the dedicated voting day(s). Voter education sensitizes the electorate on the importance of participating in elections. Voter education provides the background attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge among citizens that stimulate and consolidate democracy. During an election, this education will ensure effective organization and activism by citizens in support of parties and/or causes, behavior by citizens that is appropriate to a peaceful election, acceptance of results and tolerance of the competition and opposition.
Mean while, there are also BOUNDARY CHALLENGES including;-
ü Somaliland Case: Obviously, Somaliland is still refusing to be part of Somalia, and it’s still claiming its independence. So, if we look back the Somalia Political Party Law which was endorsed in 27/06/2016, especially Article 2, paragraph1 is denoting that, every national political party must open its offices at least 2/3 of Somalia regions, which is based on the 18 regions before 1991, so, according to this, it’s very difficult to have offices in Somaliland regions as longest they keep persisting its proclamation of self-independence. And if not addressed this problem before the election, then it’s to difficulty to fulfill that basic condition over the national political parties.
ü Gaalkacyo Case: This city is currently controlling by two authorities namely Puntland and Galmudug states which mostly happens a conflict between the two states. The people who reside that area are fed-up the frequented war between the two administrations, so there is an urgent need to address that epidemic conflict otherwise , it hinders the election process.
ü Sool & Sanaag: These two regions also are under question mark? Because mostly escalates a conflict between Somaliland and Puntland , and the latest one is TUKARAQ (Is a small village in the East of the Sool region disputed between Somaliland and Puntland. The town is located on the road between Las Anod and Garowe in Las Anod District.), so each one of these Administrations are claiming that they have the right to predominate that regions. If not fixed before the election , it will affect negatively the election process.
ü Banadir Status: Although the federal parliament (the Upper-House and House of the People) collectively are mandated to draft and endorse a bill which stipulates how to form the representatives of the Benadir region as mentioned in Article 9 of the provisional constitution, but so far , the federal parliament kept silent , so Mogadishu has no any status currently , and this creates mostly a confusion related who is representing Mogadishu?. For instant, the former Mayor of Mogadishu and Governor of Banadir Mr. Thabit, when he tried to start the process of Mogadishu Status (Although the procedure was so wrong), then the government sacked him.
Ø Applying Proportional Representation System (PR), because Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems by which divisions into an electorate are reflected proportionately into the elected body. And this system also ensures that all voters receive some representation and that all groups are represented fairly.
Ø To adjourn or postpone Somaliland seats which is 46 seats out of 61 seats of Dir-clan; and to allow them that seats when they accept to join Somalia , or to organize their election in Mogadishu as was done in the latest Parliamentary Election 2016.
Ø To establish new state which composes and unites Sool and Sanaag regions and become the sixth state of Somalia in order to eliminate a long standing conflict between Somaliland and Puntland, because the people in that regions are fed-up the permanent war between the two administrations, so let them decide their own future and the federal government of Somalia should support and provide them any assistance which can pave the way having their own state.
Ø To keep electing Banadiri seats in Mogadishu as was done the latest Somali Parliamentary Election which takes place in 2016
Ø To vote all the secure places and in the mean time , to relocate the people who live those areas that the government is not fully operating and reside them a place that they can vote safely.
Ø Voting from Abroad : The globalization of political, personal and professional life, the spread of democracy throughout the world and an increase in migration have all contributed to an increasing interest in voting rights for refugees, diplomats, members of the armed forces serving overseas and other people who are temporarily or permanently absent from their own country. The ability of these people to exercise their right to vote when an election in their home country takes place has long been an issue in electoral design and management. As the number of countries holding democratic elections has increased, however, it has become much more salient. It is not only that many more people are travelling and working around the globe. As elections take place in countries in transition after authoritarian rule, and even more so after violent conflict, the rights of refugees and people living outside a country to participate in building its future are increasingly important.
Somali Diaspora : The population of Somali live in abroad roughly estimated one million and they emigrated from Somalia after the civil war erupted in 1991 , mostly they reside East and South Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Western Europe, North America, Australia and there are also small Somali populations in other pockets of Europe and Asia. Kenya and Minnesota are hosting the largest segment of Somali migrants. So those Somalis live in abroad, they have an access to vote during the election period while they are outside of the country.
The other side of the coin, in Mogadishu, Puntland regions, Capitals of Bay, Bakool, Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, mostly Galmudug regions, Lower Jubba, All cities of Gedo region, Sool and Sanaag regions are capable to vote. Apart from that, Mogadishu population is estimated 1.5 up to 2 million , + 1 million Somali migrants in abroad, so if we assume, that those accessible populations to vote, are 3 millions except Mogadishu and Somali Diaspora, so we can have 6 million out of 12 million (The latest Somalia Population Estimation 2014) which was done collectively Somali government and UNFPA. So if we compare some countries like Norway , their latest population is 5,353,363, Finland is 5,542,517, Denmark is 5,754,356, Singapore is 5,791,901 , so each one of these countries is half of Somali population and they have permanent democratic , free and fair elections. So envision Somalia! We can have a remarkable and milestone one man one vote election in 2020, regardless all the constraints including the insecurity which is the most paramount and needs to be fixed when it comes to election discourse.
Ø Case of Gaalkacyo city, if we take an example, the city of Diredawa in Ethiopia, it was the same complexity of Gaalkacyo, after so many frequented conflicts happened between Oromia Kilal (State) and Somali Kilal (State) which is related competition about the control of the city, then the federal government intervened and finally decided to refer its administration to the federal level and ultimately Diredawa became the second capital of Ethiopia. So, we can have that kind of solution.
The other fabulous example is, city of WAJALE is controlling by two administrations, namely Ethiopian government notably Somali Kilal (DDSI), and Somaliland Administration, and there is no any conflict which takes place, so to make Galkacyo city an administration is not something sensational! Both Puntland and Galmudug Administrations can predominate at one time without conflict if they think deeply with wisdom and cool heads.
Anwar Abdifatah Bashir (Freelance Journalist and Researcher)