“The inescapable conclusion is that credible, peaceful, free and fair “One Person, One Vote” and Multiparty Election in Somalia, in its current form, is not only impractical, but it can unquestionably prompt violence and inflame tensions as the country is not fundamentally prepared for such a historical event. However, we must reconcile the absence of ‘One Person, One Vote’ with the diminishing of powers of influential Federal and State executives that usually have decided past elections.”
Campaigns have not officially kicked off, but Somalia is gearing up for an election season. The current government’s mandate ends in February 2021, but despite the government’s continued resolve and the international community’s hopes, Somalia is unlikely to hold nationwide one-person-one-vote elections.
With the Al-Shabaab militant group still controlling significant areas of the country and launching attacks on areas controlled by the federal and state governments, the security situation remains bleak. Aside from insecurity, many other obstacles could pose a real threat to a One Person, One Vote election occurring. Groundwork and technical preparations, such as voter registrations and hiring and training election officials, are not completed. There is no established One Person, One Vote process; no technical and logistical requirements have been put in place. The country hasn’t reached a consensus on national or state identification cards to ensure voter registration; no census has been taken to understand population trends that are detrimental to representation, constituency and precincts. There is still a significant amount of tension between Somalia’s federal government and Puntland State leadership. The Jubbaland political state is still in disarray, and the issue of Somaliland remains unsolved.
With the above impediments in mind, political and theoretical deliberations of alternative proposals for the upcoming elections are active in the Somali elites and other Somali gatherings, as well as on social media — a clear suspension of the belief that credible, peaceful, free and fair One Person, One Vote elections are foreseeable by the end of 2020 or early 2021. Therefore, the current government, the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC), and the Federal Parliament must completely adopt an alternative election model that allows as broad a participation by Somali voters as possible. However, we must reconcile the absence of One Person, One Vote with the elimination of the influential federal and state leaders who have usually decided past elections.