By AGGREY MUTAMBO
Saturday May 14, 2022
Somalia is holding its presidential elections this Sunday,
coming 15 months later than the original schedule of February 8, 2021. It is a
positive move, nonetheless, according to the country’s international partners,
who see it as a way to create the much-needed legitimacy to rebuild the country
following years of insecurity.
Here are the basics of that election…
What type of election
will happen on Sunday?
Somalia will once again hold indirect elections. The
original plan was to hold universal suffrage for the first time in 50 years,
but this fell through as security, legal and financial realities kicked in
ahead of elections.
Somalia needed a constitution to give a legal framework for
constituencies and voting. That wasn’t achieved. Instead, officials fell back
on indirect elections where elected legislators in the Upper and Lower Houses
sit jointly to elect a president by secret ballot.
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 entire list of 39 is published at the end of this
article. And each of these candidates paid $40,000 fees to contest. None of
them struggled to raise the cash, signalling both the intent and wealth of the
contenders. Critics have, however, argued that the high cost of contesting
locks out some qualified candidates. But election organisers say they have the
charge is cheaper than in 2017 when it cost $50,000 to enter the race.
What are the rules?
Apart from the registration fee, candidates were told to
first get an endorsement from at least 20 legislators. This is also the minimum
number of votes needed for one to stay in the race after round one on Sunday.
The candidates must also 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
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
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
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
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
- Abdirahman Abdishakur
- Abdirahman Ablaal
- Said Isse Mahamoud
- Ahmed Geele Haaf
- Mahad Ahmed Diriye
- Mahamud Dahir Aweys
- Abdiarim Hussein Guled
- Abdinassir Abdull
- Hassan Ali Khaire
- Abdukadir Jahwayn
- Ismaan Hassan Wehliye
- Said Abdbdullahi Deni
- Mohamed Amin Faarax
- Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo
- Abdi Ali Hassan
- Abdi Adan Hoosow
- Mohamed Abdi Kuusow
- Bashir Haji Ali
- Abdirahman Mohamed
- 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