As Somalia aims to move forward, many debates are currently taking place on how to ensure the country transitions towards stability and democracy. Since the state collapsed into civil war, there have been many attempts to form government’s that could lead the country towards establishing strong institutions and good governance. Various conferences held across the region had the aim to reconcile and bring together the different groups in order to compromise and establish a sense of political leadership that the Somali people could count on.
In 2012, the country experienced a sense of rebirth with the shift from Transitional government towards the current leadership. This process was, however, not entirely without hiccups. In the lead up towards the summer of that year, the 135 traditional elders were assigned to select 275 Members of Parliament, who would in turn elect a president. The selection process conducted by the elders had left many people wondering whether this was truly representative and fair. The challenges were many, and different accounts testify to the lack of transparency and impartiality of the process, which resulted in some tainted practices. One may argue for its representativeness because clans across Somalia are represented to a degree, however, is this truly fair given that the voice of youth, women, and diaspora groups is not included?
This short article aims to promote a review of the 2012 selection/election process, in order to establish an understanding of what can be improved on for 2016. The government has missed several deadlines in the roadmap towards Vision 2016, and is therefore significantly behind on schedule. As per 29 July 2015, the FGS has announced the incapability to organize 1-person 1-vote elections for the year 2016.
The government needs to realistically assess the current situation, and laydown new protocols on how to realize next year’s elections. Furthermore, this writing aims to propose a ‘Half Full Model’, which has potential to promote fair participation in the elections, which in turn will lead to improved credibility of institutions, as well as accountability and transparency. Overall, it will ensure that Somalia’s future is not put in the hands of merely a few elders but that the entire society is represented, and has a degree of influence when nominating its leadership.
The 2012 process:
In June 2012, the Transitional government and Somali leaders representing the regions approved a constitution, which was overwhelmingly passed on August 1 by the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). In order for the constitution to take effect, the parliament had to endorse it. The Technical Selection Committee (TSC) was assigned to review and approve the MPs who were nominated by the 135 traditional elders. The idea was that these traditional elders would vouch the prospective parliamentary candidates whom they thought were best equipped and competent to represent their respective constituency. The general guidelines for selecting an MP are anchored in the constitution; however, the extent this is abided to remains to be a topic of debate. Fundamentally, the amount of influence exerted by the elders is an issue which is hardly negated. The same influences and power structures within the way the elder’s operate in regards to the nomination process leaves little room for accountability and transparency. The tasks conducted by the TSC presented a base for screening procedures and gathering background information about the selected parliamentary candidates, thus accepting or rejecting nominations forwarded by the elders. Therefore, there have been no mechanisms in place to ensure that the processes were unexploited and fair.
The Half Full Model:
The Half Full Model entails a new body, which will be responsible of the 2016 election process. This is a suggested model with a special status to deal with the current realities of vision 2016. With the recent announcement from the government, that implies the impossible scenario of holding 1 person 1 vote.
In addition to that, a referendum was scheduled to take place before the elections; however, and strangely enough the FGS hasn’t mentioned any of it, this will clearly also be difficult to organize because of the weak security setting.
That being said, the coming President will have two main tasks to focus on during his tenure post 2016:
1) To prepare the country for a referendum on the constitution, and ensure the country is safe enough for that to take place
2) To focus on stabilization and prepare the nation for the 1-person-1-vote elections.
For us to understand how the Half Full Model will work, we will look at the 2012 selection/elections system, in order to compare and contrast to the Half Full Model.
During the 2012 process, the number of elders assigned to nominate MPs was 135, shared through the 4.5-clan system.
Although the FGS made substantial successful efforts to ensure equal representation in governmental and diplomatic posts, the overall structure remains to be flawed until there is a legitimate system to ensure full inclusivity (equal clan sharing system). The title Half Full Model derives its name from the 2012 process, which was mainly based on a sharing and representation system that was deemed unequal, and thus the half empty model. The Half Full Model will ensure we move from the primitive and unequal structures that have no place in Somalia’s future.
Representation, Selection, Election:
For the Half Full Model, the number of previous traditional elders (135) will be increased up to 1050 elders (5 clans x 210=1050), divided between all Somali clans to ensure each clan gets an equal share (5.0 system). This means that per constituent, 210 elders will be assigned to represent it.
The second step is to add an additional 1080, which consists of:
- Civil Society (180 reps),
- Diaspora groups (180 reps),
- Religious Scholars (180 reps),
- Women (180 reps),
- Youth (180 reps),
- Business groups (180 reps),
Total: 6 groups x 180=1080.
Each Federal Member State, with the addition of Benadir region, has to select their own representatives comprising of the aforementioned groups. For example, Interim South-West Administration (ISWA) will select 180 reps comprising of the followings:
- Civil Society (30 reps),
- Diaspora groups (30 reps),
- Religious Scholars (30 reps),
- Women (30 reps),
- Youth (30 reps),
- Business groups (30 reps)
Total: 6 groups x 30 representatives = 180 representing ISWA.
The other States will follow the same calculation accordingly.
The grand total of elders and representatives will amount up to 2130 representatives who will become the new body tasked to elect the members of parliament according to his/her clan constituent and group quota. For example, each MP has to obtain votes from clan reps + group quota reps.
The new parliament, which will have 305 members representing the 5 Somali clans, will then be tasked to elect a president in the same way as the previous elections in 2012, given that the current provisional constitution mandates elections through a parliamentary system.
The main advantage of having such structure is that:
a) It will ensure inclusivity of the entire society.
b) Corruption will be made extremely difficult.
In addition, such body will also be more feasible and practical to achieve given the recent circumstances.
In any case, it would have been a more legitimate option to have the Federal Member States host the elections in their respective capitals. However, there is a clear time constraint to organize this venture, as well as a lack of adequate logistics in terms of security, financial and mechanisms to ensure fair and transparent elections.
To conclude, time is approaching and there are many uncertainties. The form of the 2016 elections and the models are unclear. The protocols or roadmap towards the elections are also undecided. The need for change, however, is very clear and agreed upon. The roadmap towards change should be through reconciliation, transparency, and inclusivity. This Half Full Model needs more technical design, and statistical input on how to make the numbers work. It needs guidelines and protocols established in order to make sure that it will have its base and root in the Federal Member States with its final product at the Presidency. It will need the engagement from all Somalis, in the country and abroad, to achieve full inclusivity. Women and Youth will have the opportunity to have a say in this, because it is their right. Civic education will play a huge role in this process.
Somalia is at a crossroad, and there is now opportunity to build progress from the ground up. Efforts must be redoubled collectively in order to make sure that the pledges made in 2012 are met, and that the year 2016 becomes the year of change.
Thabit A. Mohamed was former Deputy Director General and Acting Chief of Staff, Office of the President of Somalia