Somalia’s presidential elections will go place this Sunday, 15 months after the initial date of February 8, 2021. Nonetheless, it is a positive step in the eyes of the country’s international allies, who see it as a way to establish the much-needed legitimacy needed to rebuild the country after years of insecurity.
The following are the essentials of that election…
On Sunday, what kind of election will take place?
Somalia will have indirect elections once more. The original goal was to hold universal suffrage for the first time in 50 years, but security, legal, and budgetary realities intervened just before the elections.
A constitution was required in Somalia to provide a legal basis for constituencies and voting. That was not accomplished. Instead, officials resorted to deception.
The Upper House has 54 senators while the Lower House has 275 MPs. These legislators were elected through specially selected delegates in each of the five federal states, based on a delicate clan balancing act.
Who is running?
This election has attracted the largest number of contenders in Somalia’s history. According to a list publicised by the Somalia Parliamentary Taskforce on Presidential Elections, 39 candidates had entered the race by close of deadline on Tuesday. Only one woman is in the race.
They come from Somalia’s main clans: Hawiye, Darod, Dir, and Digit & Mirifle, also known as Rahanweyn.
Most of the contenders are new to the race but it also includes veteran politicians. The incumbent Mohamed Farmaajo will be defending his seat against his predecessor Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the President between 2009 and 2012.
Other key contenders include Puntland State President Said Abdullahi Deni; Hassan Ali Khaire, Farmaajo’s Prime Minister until July 2020; and Abdishakur Abdirahman Warsame, a former Planning Minister who turned into a vocal critic of Farmaajo. The race also includes Fawzia Yusuf Adam, a former Foreign Minister in the government of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the only female contender; as well as Abdulkadir Osoble, a former chair of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.
The complete list of 39 can be seen at the bottom of this article. Each of these contestants paid a fee of $40,000 to compete. None of them struggled to raise the funds, indicating the competitors’ intent as well as their riches. However, some critics contend that the high cost of contesting keeps some qualified candidates out. However, election organizers claim that the fee is lower than in 2017, when entering the contest cost $50,000.
What exactly are the guidelines?
Aside from the registration fee, candidates were required to have the support of at least 20 parliamentarians. This is also the required amount of votes to remain in the contest after the first round on Sunday.
Candidates must be Muslims, Somali citizens aged 40 or older, and be of sound mind. However, a candidate may hold multiple nationalities. Incumbent Farmaajo was elected while holding American citizenship. However, in 2019, he announced that he had renounced it.
The registered candidates are expected to address a joint sitting of parliament. They will each get 20 minutes to pitch their ideas and explain why they should be voted in.
On Voting Day, the 329 legislators will each have one vote. A candidate can win an outright election if he garners 75 percent of the vote in round one. This has, however, never happened in Somalia and elections routinely go to three rounds.
In 2017, Farmaajo went neck-and-neck with Mohamud to the third round, before the latter conceded defeat. If no one gets supermajority votes in round one, the election will be repeated with the same conditions, except that those candidates who fail to get 20 votes or more will be dropped from this round.
If no one gets the requisite number of votes, the race can go into the third round where the winner, between the highest and second-highest scoring candidates, is declared with a simple majority.
What are the chances for candidates?
First, Somalia’s indirect election in the past has brought forth surprises. No incumbent has defended his seat in all recent indirect elections and every new poll has brought on a newcomer as president.
Today, as in the past, the factors that sprung forth winners are the same: clan alignments, financial muscle and strong networks among voting delegates or legislators.
Based on that Farmaajo, Mohamud, Ahmed, Deni and Khaire may pass the first round but none of them is guaranteed victory.
Second, the ability to convince competitors to drop from the race and endorse a candidate can play a big role. As has happened in the past, it is expected that some candidates will drop out even before they are officially removed.
In addition, candidates coming from the same clans routinely coalesce, if they realise they will be splitting votes if they ran against each other. In 2017, Mohamud and Ahmed, both from the larger Hawiye clan, split votes, allowing Farmaajo, from the larger Darod clan, to gain.
This time, Farmaajo’s own contest faces a stronger challenge from Deni, who is also from his Darod clan. Deni’s initial advantage is that he nominated legislative candidates from Puntland, carefully eliminating perceived opponents. After the MPs were elected, he declared interest in the top seat even though it had been a poorly kept secret. Farmaajo, however, still enjoys trappings of power and connections to outside friends, who may help oil his campaign machinery.
The bigger problem is that candidates may face lower chances if they come from clans that have already taken speakership of the two Houses of Parliament. As a tradition, clan balancing means the legislature and the executive cannot be headed by the same clan, even though it is not illegal.
What are the candidates saying?
Farmaajo has said he wants to continue with the presidency and improve the country’s institutions.
“I am ready to continue and complete the journey of change in our dearest motherland, by delivering for my fellow citizens for another four years,” he said on Tuesday after enrolling for the race. He says he has implemented “widespread reforms” during his tenure, although his opponents reject that characterisation.
Deni called Farmaajo’s reign “failed, divisive politics of the past.” In his publicised manifesto, he has vowed to build a Somalia “with a government that operates within the bounds of our constitution and federal structure, and lift the Somali people out of poverty and integrity.”
Other contenders have lampooned Farmaajo for failing to tame Al-Shabaab, runaway corruption and intolerance. “Farmaajo promised to eradicate Al-Shabaab from Somalia in just two years when he took office in 2017. He also promised victims of terrorism his government would swiftly compensate them. Nevertheless, this has proven another broken promise,” said Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, his predecessor.
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, credited with the initial defeat of Al-Shabaab in the capital Mogadishu, says the government has been siding with terror groups, including spreading propaganda, something he argues has made government agencies complicit in terrorism.
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud
Dahir Mahamud Gelle
Abdikadir Osoble Ali
Abdullahi Ali Hassan
Jamaal Ibraahim Abdi
Adow Aali Gees
Mahamed Abdirahman Siriin
Omar Aabdukadir Ahmed
Jibril Ibrahim Abdule
Nucmaan Sheikh Tuurre
Thabit Abdi Mahamed
Said Isse Mahamoud
Ahmed Geele Haaf
Mahad Ahmed Diriye
Mahamud Dahir Aweys
Abdiarim Hussein Guled
Hassan Ali Khaire
Ismaan Hassan Wehliye
Said Abdbdullahi Deni
Mohamed Amin Faarax
Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo
Abdi Ali Hassan
Abdi Adan Hoosow
Mohamed Abdi Kuusow
Bashir Haji Ali
Ridwaan Hirsi Mohamed
Fawzia Yusuf Adam
Mukhtar Mohamed Said
Abdukadir Sheikh Ali Bagdadi
Sakariye Mahmud Haji
Dr Hussein Abdi Nunow
Abdinur Sheikh Mohamed
Abukar Adan Ade