Somali Political Squabbles May Jeopardize Elections

Somalia parliament (Photo Credit: Villa Somalia.)

Somalia’s President and Prime Minister are at odds over who should lead the National Intelligence and Security Agency, after former head, Fahad Yasin was fired on Monday over the alleged disappearance of intelligence officer Ikran Tahlil in late June.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo appointed Yasin Abdullahi Mohamed to lead the agency, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble appointed General Bashir Goobe to the same position.

The Premier on Wednesday also fired the interior minister and replaced him with opposition and president critic Abdullahi Nor. The speaker of the parliament has objected to the swearing-in of Nor, saying it violates the constitution.

In May, president Farmaajo was forced to hand the parliamentary and presidential elections and its security to the Prime Minister after many months of disagreement with Jubaland and Puntland federal member states’ leadership.

The electoral disagreement and the two-year term extension that Farmaajo later abandoned resulted in armed clashes in Mogadishu between government soldiers and forces loyal to opposition politicians.

Roble worked with five regional states leaders Galmudug, Hirshabelle Jubaland, Puntland, and South West and Mogadishu mayor, and agreed on how to conduct the parliamentary vote.

The current president has been in favor of a one-man-one-vote election model. He argues an indirect election empowers the elite.

The much-awaited electoral process began with the senate election. Four federal member states have already selected their senators, but the process has been marred with favoritism. Some candidates claim they were blocked from competing.

The selection of the senators has created more suspicion and mistrust between the federal member states and some presidential candidates in Mogadishu, who accuse the leaders of states of wanting to rig the presidential vote by selecting their members of parliament. The 101 clan delegates will vote for each seat. There are 275 lawmakers and 59 senators who will then elect the president.

The current election deal gives the regional leaders the power to appoint 60 members of the 101 clan delegates, which is disputed by some opposition groups.

It’s reported the Prime Minister wants to renegotiate the electoral deal with the federal member states on the issue surrounding the selection of the clan delegates, a request denied by some leaders.

Last month Roble traveled to the United Kingdom, Kenya and Egypt to meet the top leadership of these countries.

Kenya and Somalia diplomatic relations have not been good in the past year. Last December, the horn of the African nation cut diplomatic ties and blamed its neighbor for interfering with its internal affairs, a claim denied by Kenya. After more than four and half months, the two countries have agreed to restore diplomatic relations.

The Somali government enjoys close relations with Ethiopia, a relationship that has angered Egypt, which has a long-standing feud with Ethiopia over the $4.8 billion dam on River Nile, a hydroelectric project that it expects to use its power for economic growth.

Some political commentators attribute these foreign trips to the fallout of the two leaders.

The disagreement between the two Somali leaders over security will have a huge impact on the upcoming elections.

Some political observers see Farmaajo as someone who does not allow other politicians to have a say on national issues and his foreign policy as combative. For these reasons, the country could devolve into civil war, so keeping him out of the upcoming elections will help bring stability and move the country forward.

The intelligence agency is required to clear those members who want to compete in the upcoming elections.

Some politicians fear the intelligence offices can be used to block some candidates from competing in the election, creating more division between the opposition candidates and the leaders of the federal member states who have refused to renegotiate the electoral agreement on the selection of delegates.

Farmaajo believes indirect elections that have dominated Somalia’s electoral system are not ideal or sustainable and do not represent the people’s will.

The president is fighting to keep the security within his grasp to help him launch his bid to run for a second term in office.

On Thursday, the new NISA chief Yasin Abdullahi Mohamed attended the weekly top security meeting in Mogadishu.

Former president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said Thursday the political battle could stop the planned elections.

He called on both leaders to reduce the tension and find a solution to the country’s political problems.

In Somalia, the plan to move away from clan delegates having a say in the parliamentary elections was seen as democratic progress in a country that is recovering from decades of clan conflict.

In this election, that ambition to take away electoral powers from the clans threatens to split the country.

The stalemate has deepened the mistrust among Somali politicians. Most ordinary Somalis see the solution to the electoral stalemate is to give the 101 clan delegates complete autonomy in appointing their lawmaker to represent them in the next government.