The Position of the Coalition for Change on the 2016 Elections
The 2016 parliamentary and presidential elections abiding by the democratic principle of "one person, one vote” was meant to be a transformational event in the history of our country, which would lead to the election of a representative legislature and a President elected through the will of the Somali electorate. Sadly, under the incumbent national leadership this has not materialized, and as a result, Somali citizens will be stripped of their political rights to elect their representatives.
In a manner that is not in line with the Constitution, the incumbent national administration and regional administrations have self-appointed themselves to form the National Leadership Forum (NLF), a body that has since displaced the Federal Parliament in making decisions on the modalities for the 2016 electoral process. As at August 9, 2016, after a series of prior NLF meetings failed to reach consensus on an electoral model, the NLF had opted to adopt a compromise electoral model, the 4.5 clan-based model.
Under this electoral model, each member of parliament of the 275 lower house parliamentarians will be selected by a fifty-one (51) member electoral college consisting of representatives from their respective constituencies, totalling to 14,025 delegates. In the absence of well-defined procedures and adequate checks and balances, selfish politicians could exploit and corrupt members of the electoral college to capture votes for parliamentary seats or in an attempt to win the presidency. Ultimately, this unchecked system will reinforce explosive clan and sub-clan tensions to further worsen the situation in Somalia.
Surprisingly, the NLF has single-handedly set-up the rules of the game that would govern the administration of the 2016 electoral process. This includes determining the terms of reference and the selection of the members of the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT), the State Electoral Implementation Team (SEIT), the Independent Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanisms (IEDRM), the adoption of an unrealistic election timetable, and determining eligibility criteria for parliamentary and presidential aspirants among other decisions with far-reaching repercussions. This is with little, if any, consultation by national and state legislative assemblies, political parties, aspiring candidates, civil society and citizens alike, hence the process lacks any sense of ownership by stakeholders. Consequently, the results of the 2016 elections shall not be competitive and will lack integrity and legitimacy.
Against this backdrop, the Coalition for Change, a platform for political parties, forums, presidential candidates and politicians have amalgamated to coordinate their activities to bring about positive political transformation in Somalia leading to a legitimate 2016 legislative and presidential elections. In what seems to be the absence of independence, impartiality, and fairness of the 2016 elections, the Coalition for Change seeks to ensure that adequate checks and balances are in place for the upcoming elections.
After a thorough review of recent electoral developments at the national level, we have identified alarming shortcomings in the current electoral framework that will be susceptible to electoral manipulation. The shortcomings are as follows:
(1) The lack of transparency and accountability in decision-making by the NLF. The NLF failed to bring electoral matters out into the public arena and make them the subject of public participation. Rather, the NLF chose to make unilateral decisions without involving stakeholders in particular and the public in general;
(2) The decision made by the NLF to prolong the lifespan of the top office holders at the national level, in the interest of influencing the rules of the game to return to the seat of power, was unconstitutional;
(3) The unrealistic election timetable that could result in hastily organized elections that are in favour of incumbent politicians;
(4) Currently, there is an atmosphere of fear limiting the full participation of many aspiring candidates in the electoral process. This results in a) manipulation to exclude aspiring candidates and; b) the absence of reliable pre-planned security measures necessary for ensuring that traditional elders, political actors, and the public are not targeted by spoilers;
(5) There is absence of independent electoral structures (i.e., FEIT, SEIT and IEDRM), since the incumbent federal and state administrations have solely predetermined the functions, roles and the constituting membership of the election management and dispute resolution bodies, already resulting in a perception of unfairness and seriously putting into question the independence of such bodies by other political stakeholders and the general public;
(6) Contrary to Article 58 of the Provisional Constitution, there are flawed parliamentary eligibility requirements that violate the political rights of ordinary Somali citizens and exclude many eligible aspirants from participating in the elections due to financial limitations;
(7) The decision to have federal member states appoint members of the Upper House of Parliament presents a significant challenge in the context of Somaliland since Somaliland has not been significantly engaged in this decision, thus putting pro-unionist politicians and citizens from Somaliland in a precarious situation;
(8) The lack of logistical and operational set-up for parliamentary elections throughout the country creates a situation for a sham exercise from the onset;
To date, the election planning has been widely regarded as failing to foster the political and security environment necessary for competitive, fair and legitimate elections. Given the enormity of what is at stake for our country in terms of nation-building, state-building, security and development, we believe that it is imperative that political stakeholders take their rightful space to provide alternative political voices in the elections’ planning. Attempts by the incumbent to exclude political stakeholders and opposition leaders in the electoral planning process will lead to an election outcome that lacks a secure roof of legitimacy hence sets our country into a deeper crisis since it will not be deemed as free and fair.
To ensure that the foregoing does happen, we resolve as follows:
1 – THAT we build on the political unity and mass influence of the Coalitions for Change which includes, but are not limited to, political parties, civil society, forums, presidential candidates and politicians who believe that collective action is required to bring about positive transformation in Somalia.
2 – THAT the International community ensures the inclusion of the Coalition for Change in the electoral process as a check and balance measure to the election management bodies.
This is to include representatives nominated by the Coalition for Change and its partners as members of FEIT, SEIT and IEDRM that will be present and effectively participating during the entire planning and implementation process of the Somalia Elections 2016. These must be effected pronto;
3 – THAT the international community agents and institutions be invited and engaged constructively to observe, monitor and mediate potential pre-election and real-time election disputes;
We call on our international partners, particularly the AU, IGAD, the UN bodies, EU, and all other partners of goodwill to establish a pre-election, election and post-election observation and monitoring structure by credible international actors to support the election and dispute management activities. This initiative shall automatically forestall any post-election violence.
4 – THAT there be a handover of the Office of the President as per the Constitution
We demand a constitutional handover of the Presidency of the Somali Federal Republic to the Speaker of the Parliament with immediate effect by the 10th of September 2016, as per Article 95 of the Somali Provisional Constitution.
5 – THAT there be the establishment of a public resource monitoring committee to ensure that state resources are not used in and for campaigns;
To ensure that 2016 elections are free from corruption, intimidation and vote buying, we demand that the following measures be implemented swiftly:
i. THAT an independent committee supported by credible international institutions together with the Somali public be established to monitor and prevent the misappropriation of public funds and state resources, including state media, at both the federal and state levels in advance of and during the elections;
ii. THAT all public officials declaring their intent to contest seats should hand over all public assets and state resources in their possession before the official campaign period;
6 – THAT there be stringent, comprehensive and reliable electoral security arrangements.
We caution against the inappropriate use of security agents for political vested interests of incumbent office holders and express concern with the lack of progress on the security front to date. The Coalition for Change demands to be involved in security-related issues pertaining to the elections from this point forward in order to level the playing field for all political forces and candidates. We firmly believe that all political groups and candidates must be protected equally in order to ensure the integrity of the process and secure legitimate election results.
We, therefore, call for the following:
I.THAT an electoral security committee be established and tasked with overseeing the security of elections to ensure the integrity of the security of the participants of the electoral process. This committee should be comprised of political stakeholders across the political spectrum, nominated members of federal and state governments, AMISOM and international stakeholders. The role of the joint committee will be to:
a.To agree upon a protocol and code of conduct for security arrangements in advance of and during elections, and to monitor and enforce compliance of the protocol and code of conduct;
b.To direct and oversee personnel deployed to provide security during the elections;
II.THAT security agencies act professionally and impartially to ensure a credible and legitimately conducted elections and a peaceful post-election period;
III.THAT the acting President cede command and control of the security forces to the electoral security committee;
7 – THAT a realistic election timetable/schedule be agreed upon by all players and stakeholders across board;
Once and after the conditions we have set above are fully met, then the FEIT, the Coalition for Change including the Somali public and other elections stakeholders should discuss and agree upon a realistic and implementable electoral timetable.
In conclusion, the Coalition for Change, solemnly agree and declare as follows:
That the electoral process to date falls well short of meeting universal standards that would set the conditions that would allow for a credible, fair and legitimate electoral process, therefore legitimate election results.
In the event that the Federal Government of Somalia and their election management bodies do not collaborate with the Coalition for Change to meet the above public demands to rectify what we regard as electoral malpractices, the Coalition shall boycott the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
Similarly, the Coalition calls upon all other stakeholders to support efforts towards achieving a credible, free, fair and legitimate elections results and if the conditions for this are not met we call on them to boycott the elections.