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One-man-one-vote not possible in Somalia—Prof Jawari

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Professor Mohamed Osman Jawari shortly after he was re-elected as the speaker of the Federal Parliament of Somalia. (Courtesy)

MOGADISHU—On August, Somalia started a public awareness campaign on the 2020/21 elections in a bid to inform residents of ongoing preparations for the one-person, one-vote exercise. But can the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) hold one-man-one-vote in less than a year to the next poll?

“No. It’s impossible,” says Professor Mohamed Jawari, immediate former speaker of the Federal Parliament of Somalia during interview with Dalsan TV.

“Don’t be mislead that it happened in Afghanistan and other places. It’s impossible here,” Prof Jawari said during the interview, adding that the electoral law is not ready to allow for such an ambitious process to happen in Somalia 50 years since the last open polls was held.

Despite the Constitutional obstacles, experts warn the country lack right processes, the technical and logistical requirements that still need to be put in place before an election can take place. 

Mid this year, the chairperson of the NIEC, Halima Ibrahim urged the parliamentarians to support the one-person-one-vote move.

“I request parliamentarians in this workshop to advocate for ‘one-person one-vote,” she urged during a conference at the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

For Somalia, such an election would be the first universal suffrage polls in half a century. Somalia’s last universal vote was held in 1969, shortly before the coup that brought military leader Siad Barre to power. 

Following two decades of civil war and then rule by a transitional government, backed by the United Nations and the African Union, Somalia has slowly been inching its way toward universal polls.

Three previous presidential elections in 2009, 2012 and 2017 were decided in a system where lawmakers were voted in by about 14,000 clan delegates. The lawmakers then in turn elected a president. The clan-based election system has been widely criticized for marginalizing young people, women and ethnic minorities.

The one-man-one-vote may not likely be possible to happen out of the major cities such as Mogadishu, Baidoa and Kismayu due to insecurity and lack of resources to secure polling areas by sufficient security forces. Somalia’s declaration of the new electoral process comes at a time when the African Union forces—Amisom—is planning to move out of the country beginning next year.

Somalia is still highly insecure,” Omar Mahmood, an Addis Ababa-based researcher at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies told DW TV mid this year. 

“I don’t think there’s been a great change in the past year. We might even have some backsliding in certain areas,” Omar added.

Aside from security, there are still other obstacles that could pose a problem for Somalia’s election plans. Mahmood said there’s still a great amount of tension between Somalia’s federal state government and the member states.

“Many of the states are not working with Mogadishu,” he said. “This affects security relationships, political relationships, institution building, state building — the constitution is provisional, but there is supposed to be a finalization of it.” Without any cooperation between the states, very little progress can be made, he added. 

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