All eyes are on Somalia as the country prepares to elect a new president in an indirect election set for 30 November 2016. After numerous postponements, voting for members of parliament, who will, in turn, choose the country’s next leader, began in October.
Somalia has, for years, been plagued by conflict. As the country gears towards selecting its next head of state, political and economic stability remains an elusive dream for the East African nation. Therefore, it remains to be seen if the election will be a success as it’s set to take place in the face of threats and attacks from al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group that has terrorised the country for years.
Apart from the never-ending challenges that have come to define the country’s politics, Somali elections are a unique and complex affair that involves a mix of traditional and modern selection processes. Here are some of the dynamics and things to know about these intricate elections that will see only some 14,000 people take part.
We answer 4 key questions to help make sense of it all.
WHO GETS TO VOTE?
Somalia’s electoral process is a fascinating and complicated one. The upcoming election will not be a one-person, one-vote affair as had been hoped for. Instead, a group of traditional elders from the country’s major clans will represent the people and elect members of parliament, who will, in turn, choose the next president. This system of indirect elections will see 135 traditional leaders select 14,025 members of the electorate, who will then cast secret ballots to elect 275 parliamentarians. One-third of these seats will be reserved for women. The 275 seats will be distributed in line with the 4.5 power-sharing formula, which allocates one in four seats to each of the four major clans and the remaining half of a seat to minority groups.
WAS IT ALWAYS THIS WAY?
Somalia only established a stable government in 2012 after years of fighting following the demise of dictator Siad Barre in 1991. The end of Barre’s reign marked the beginning of a prolonged civil war that was partly responsible for the rise of al-Shabaab. While the upcoming election will not be open to all Somalis to vote, it is a significant improvement from the 2012 election in which MPs were directly selected by only 135 clan elders, whereas this year the electoral college is made of 14,025 members. Additionally, in 2012 the election of the MPs was held in Mogadishu, while this time around the election takes place in different cities across the country.
WHO’S CURRENTLY IN CHARGE?
When Hassan Sheikh Mohamud came to power in 2012, he was a beacon of hope to many Somalis as they looked up to him to help rebuild the country after years of conflict, piracy, and Islamist insurgency. A lot was expected of the former peace activist and educational campaigner, who received significant international support as he began his term. Now, as Muhamud applies his focus on winning a second term, he does so in the midst of a barrage of criticism for underperforming. However, some good has also come out of Muhamud’s presidency. His leadership has seen Somalia establish and cultivate relations with other nations, with several countries opening embassies in the capital Mogadishu.
HOW MANY CANDIDATES ARE THERE?
This promises to be a widely contested election, with more than ten candidates vying for the country’s top position. The top contenders include the incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, and former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who all have the backing of the clans. But hopes of some of the people of Somalia lie with the country’s first-ever woman presidential candidate, Fadumo Dayib. The history-making candidate is determined to change the East African nation’s political landscape, vowing to increase opportunities for the youth and negotiate with al-Shabaab to bring an end to the violence that has beset the country for more than a decade.
Having been a refugee herself, Dayib represents hope for millions of Somalis displaced by war and poverty. Born in Kenya to Somali parents, Dayib has been living in Finland as a refugee ever since she fled the civil war in 1990. Now an activist and a public health specialist, Fadumo is returning home with hopes of stirring her country towards a place of peace and prosperity.