Somalia is the only country now in the world without a legally recognized and legitimately elected government after the federal states and the central government failed to agree on elections.
An alliance of Somali opposition leaders has announced they no longer recognise President Mohamed Farmajo as the head of state, as his mandate officially ended on February 8th.
“We no longer recognize Farmajo as President. His term has ended and he is not only an obstacle to the nation but to national elections as well. He couldn’t reach a deal with the regional leaders because he left the meeting on the elections, he can no longer be in charge as his tenure is over”, said Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, a Somali presidential candidate.
But also the term of the Somali parliament has expired and equally there is no legislature. Therefore, Somalia has entered an uncharted territory where there is a president who has no mandate and a parliament with no mandate.
Previous talks between representatives of the federal states and the central government in Dusamareb have failed to produce a political agreement.
Somalia’s president is elected by the country’s lawmakers made up of 275 members of parliament and 54 senators. But Somalia has failed to hold the necessary ballot to chose new lawmakers, so no new president can be elected.
Under its current indirect election system, 27,775 electoral delegates — who are nominated by traditional clan elders — vote for members of parliament while state legislatures elect the senators.
The legislative and parliamentary votes originally scheduled for 2020, have been postponed twice because of wrangling over election details between the central government in Mogadishu and the semi-autonomous federal member states.
Farmajo and the leaders of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous federal states reached an agreement in September that paved the way for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.
But it fell apart as squabbles erupted over how to conduct the vote, and last-minute talks to salvage the agreement collapsed last Friday.
One sticking point in the talks was over the control of Gedo, an area of Jubbaland where the president’s forces have been battling their regional counterparts for control.
Jubbaland leader Ahmed Madobe accused Mohamed of trying to control the Gedo vote from Mogadishu and rejecting “every possible solution” put forward to resolve a deadlock over the administration of the poll.
“We have previously asked the president to stop meddling with the election process and stick to his campaign, but this didn’t happen,” Madobe said on Friday.
Dubbe said the government “tried hard to have an election in Gedo region similar to that of other states, however, Jubbaland refused that”.
Other contentious issues include the deployment of federal troops in Gedo and the composition of the electoral commission.
Jubaland, one of the regions at odds with Mogadishu, accused Farmajo of refusing their attempts at compromise.
The president blamed his rivals for reneging on the terms. With no deal in sight, opposition leaders fear President Mohamed Farmajo might request a term extension. A move lawmakers said they would reject.
“It is not written in the constitution that the president can act as care-taker, only that the parliament can act as care-taker”, Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame commented.
The “Villa”, as Somalian call the Presidency, has dismissed rumours saying the government planned to request on term extension from parliament.
The opposition alliance suggested the creation of a council of lawmakers that could elect a transitional leader to govern until elections can take place.
Somalia’s foreign backers urged Somalia’s divided political leadership “to resume their dialogue urgently” so that elections can take place as soon as possible.
“We believe that it remains possible to reach consensus, and that all sides are open to further discussions,” the United Nations, African Union and other international partners said in a statement Monday.
Any attempt at partial or parallel elections would not be supported by the international community, the statement continued.
Many fear that the political tensions rising from this deadlock might further reinforce the Al Shabaab insurrection that has intensified its attacks in the last year.
Somalia had set itself the goal of holding its first one-person, one-vote ballot since 1969, a pursuit described by the UN as a “historic milestone” on the country’s path to full democratisation and peace after decades of war and violent instability.
But that was abandoned for a complex indirect system similar to past elections, where special delegates selected by Somalia’s myriad clans pick lawmakers for the upper and lower houses of parliament, who in turn choose the president.
Farmajo’s political opponents have accused the central government in Mogadishu of an unwillingness to compromise with regional leaders and engage in good faith to reach common ground on the fraught process.
Somalia has entered a period of political uncertainty once again, and no one is brave enough to predict what happens next.
While the constitution sets out four-year mandates for the presidency, an extension of the government’s term by Parliament is legally allowed by precedent, though analysts warn that the move is politically fraught.
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