Although Somalia has literally stuck in the process of holding free, fair, and credible elections, there are notable progressive strides in the Horn of Africa region, which could provide huge and needed steps towards democratization processes in the region.
While Somalia is struggling to even find a consensus on holding clan-based elections, the northeastern Federal state of Puntland has made serious progress which is worth emulation as the two regions prepare for the first direct polls in history.
In Puntland, a democratic process is taking shape, which could perhaps give Mogadishu an opportunity to benchmark. The Federal State’s President Said Abdullahi Deni vowed to deliver one-person-one-vote elections, which are now on the course.
Guled Saleh, the chairman of Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission [TPEC] said earlier this year that the electoral process preparations will be completed by the end of this year, adding that most of the logistics have been put in place to allow voter registration and civic education.
“All things the elections need like laws related to the electoral process, voter registration, public awareness, the demarcation of boundaries of the regions and districts of Puntland, will be completed before the local government elections in October 2021.” TPEC chairperson said.
Already, voter registration has begun in three districts this May. Eyl, Ufeyn, and Qardo are a prelude to the people of Puntland electing local councils through a multi-party system. This now means by October, all the regions within Puntland could have elected their representatives.
Voter registration equipment and software including computers, printers, IRIS, facial recognition, and mini server were delivered on Sunday by PIITECH, the commission said ahead of the registration processes. This will be the first direct election within Somalia in as many years.
Last year, Somalia shelved plans to hold direct polls after the federal government failed to do voter registration in time, forcing stakeholders to opt for an improved clan-based model. However, the model is yet to be implemented even after the expiry of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s term, leading to the current political stalemate.
Already, Somaliland, which declared self-independence in 1991 has registered over 1.3 million people ahead of local elections in the northern breakaway region, the first universal suffrage polls in as many years.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in Somaliland in May 2021, alongside local district elections according to the information given by the Electoral Commission. On 12 July 2020, Somaliland’s three main political parties reached an agreement to hold parliamentary and local elections by the end of the year.
The commission has already published names of all registered voters in polling stations ahead of the fundamental exercise, which could define the destiny of the region, that is fighting for international recognition. Somaliland is yet to be given statehood recognition.
“Somaliland addresses a series of elections this month. Almost 1.3 million citizens are registered to vote. Constituencies will have their representations (councilors and lower house parliamentarians). Democracy is not imposed paradigm in Somaliland – it’s an indigenous phenomenon,” said Mohamed Hagi, Somaliland’s envoy to Taiwan.
“Democracy has a future. Somaliland holding parliamentary polls in late May. Puntland is gearing up for local government elections in October 2021. Both admins making great strides in democratization, putting down roots of constitutionalism. Southern Somalia has lessons to learn,” adds Rashid Abdi, an analyst on Horn of Africa affairs.
Early this week, President Muse Bihi Abdi, a former member of Somalia’s Air Force, met opposition leaders Abdirahman Irro where they held discussions on holding universal suffrage polls with minimal foreign funding.