late and contentious

Somalia’s delayed presidential elections: Top 7 issues to follow

By Mohamed Sheikh Nor

Posted on February 4, 2021 14:18

Somalia Troubled Election
Somalis walk past billboards showing candidates Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame and Omar Abdulkadir Ahmedfiqi in Mogadishu, Somalia Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Uncertainty looms large in the Horn of Africa as Somalia prepares for its delayed and contentious elections normally meant to take place when the president’s term expires on 8 February.

This year’s election is a defining moment for the country’s stability. The conduct and results of the vote will have a ripple effect on the social, political and economic relations in the Horn of Africa.

It will also influence what will take place when the African Union’s AMISOM peacekeeping forces leave in 2021 and the security of the country will fall under the responsibility of the Somali Armed Forces. Somalia continues to suffer from terrorist attacks at the hands of the Islamist rebels Al-Shabaab.

READ MORE Somalia: Why clan elders are vital in launching talks with Al-Shabaab

Ahead of the polls, we look at the top seven issues facing the country.

The current impasse was sparked by the federal state of Jubaland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland after they both refused to sign a pact introducing a new electoral model.

READ MORE Somalia’s election impasse: Crisis or successful state-building?

This model was introduced after protracted discussions among the federal government of Somalia, federal member states and the mayor of Mogadishu. It is largely based on the electoral model of 2016. But in this instance, the number of delegates who will elect MPs in the lower house has now increased to 101. Other changes include:

  • Elections will only take place at two locations within every state, rather than four as before.
  • Members of both levels of parliament from Somaliland – a secessionist region – will be elected in Mogadishu.
  • Delegates are to be selected through collaboration with civil society, traditional elders and state governments.
  • The agreement also fixes a 30% quota for female representation in both houses of parliament.
  • Representatives in the upper house are to be selected by state parliaments.

Discussions about this new model ended on 17 September 2020 with both Jubaland and Puntland refusing to sign.

James Swan, the UN envoy to Somalia, has been at the forefront of negotiations, pushing for an amicable solution to the impasse. His shuttle diplomacy, both virtually and in person, has managed to resolve the stalemate, with Jubaland and Puntland conceding to elect members to the electoral committee.

The two states issued a joint statement on 28 January stating the would agree to take part in the electoral process following pressure from the international community.