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Somalia: Power of FMS leaders a stain on electoral system

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Tuesday November 17, 2020 - 04:35:21 in Latest News by Super Admin
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    Somalia: Power of FMS leaders a stain on electoral system

    FMS presidents can deny anyone they dislike the right to run for a Senate seat. Even if a candidate meets all the guidelines of the political agreement (and is prepared to put up 20,000 US dollars), a simple stroke of an FMS president's pen can

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FMS presidents can deny anyone they dislike the right to run for a Senate seat. Even if a candidate meets all the guidelines of the political agreement (and is prepared to put up 20,000 US dollars), a simple stroke of an FMS president's pen can keep them from running As in 2016, FMS presidents wield excessive power, especially in the Upper House elections. For example, FMS presidents can deny anyone they dislike the right to run for a Senate seat. Even if a candidate meets all the guidelines of the political agreement (and is prepared to put up 20,000 US dollars), a simple stroke of an FMS president's pen can keep them from running. This outrageous practice violates the provisional constitution's protection of a citizen's right to run for office. It is a major stain on our electoral system.
In Somalia’s political system, senators are rightly expected to represent the interests of the state. However, FMS presidents conflate that with their desire to have senators represent their personal ambitions in Mogadishu, starting with the presidential election and continuing throughout the senator’s four-year tenure. Senators are thus beholden to the narrow political viewpoints of the FMS presidents, and if they step out of line they will face punitive measures, potentially including the loss of their seat.


Having appointed eight of the 11 SEIT members, FMS presidents also have oversized influence over Lower House elections. Behind the scenes, they essentially decide the winners and losers of each state’s seats through their proxies in the SEIT. This year, a clause in the electoral agreement goes even further, allowing FMS presidents to directly appoint an unspecified number of the 101 delegates (electors) for each seat, effectively ensuring their ability to control the outcome. In other words, FGS and FMS leaders have conspired to jointly manipulate the election in their favor.

Candidates for seats representing Somaliland are even more exposed than their counterparts from the rest of the country, as their election will take place in Mogadishu under the prying eyes of the FGS. Already, members of the Somaliland SEIT appointed.
to manage this process have sparked major controversies. Key actors such as the speaker of the Upper House and many opposition groups have denounced the committee as partisan and untrustworthy. This is similar to what happened in 2016, which led to widespread irregularities regarding the Somaliland caucus in the parliament.
Recommendations

Democracy is messy, especially in fragile contexts like Somalia. However, widespread violations can and should be avoided to protect the legitimacy and credibility of our nascent democracy. We propose the following concrete actions to achieve that objective.

First, the current FEIT, SEITs and dispute resolution committee comprising loyalists and staff of FGS and FMS leaders should be disbanded and replaced with credible committees made up of respected individuals. If FGS and FMS leaders are incapable of selecting nonpartisan committees, they should at least appoint bipartisan committees that include people who represent the interests of opposition groups. The FGS and FMS cannot be both judges and juries in the upcoming election, and any competitive process should meet a minimum threshold.

Second, we urge the formation of integrity commissions in each of the FMS and Mogadishu with a strong mandate to provide oversight over the entire process. These commissions could work directly with the FEIT and SEITs to ensure free and fair elections. The integrity commissions should be mandated to intervene in real time to address irregularities such as the intimidation of candidates and unfair practices in the selection of delegates. The commissions should comprise eminent and highly respected individuals from each state, including faith and business leaders. There are plenty of people with those qualities across the country.

Third, FMS presidents should refrain from arbitrarily blocking eligible citizens from running for the Upper House. There is no legal or moral justification for this egregious and abhorrent practice of removing Somalis’ inherent right to run for elected office. The SEIT in each state should accept the applications of all eligible citizens.

Fourth, a federal-level dispute resolution mechanism should be established for what is likely to be a highly-disputed election. This body should comprise prominent legal scholars, including Islamic jurists, who enjoy great integrity and respect among their communities. This body should settle disputes resulting from irregularities in the parliamentary and presidential election. It should be empowered to order the nullification and rerun of elections as necessary. Only after the mechanism finishes its work should MPs be allowed to take office and to elect the president.

Fifth, members of the security services, civil servants (including diplomats) and staff of FGS and FMS leaders should be barred from joining the electoral bodies. This logical step is enshrined in the electoral law passed by the federal parliament and signed by the FGS president earlier this year.

Sixth, the international community should not become an accessory by funding a highly compromised and corrupt process. This would be a disservice to their countries’ taxpayers and an abuse of the Somali people’s rights.

Seventh, the UN Security Council should understand that a stolen and tarnished election in Somalia could easily lead to conflict and undo the fragile stability secured over the past 20 years. Therefore, under the provisions of Chapter VII of theCharter and as per the international precept – the Responsibility to Protect – the Council should demand that Somali politicians organize a credible and fair election.
Taken together, these steps would undoubtedly strengthen the integrity of the polls and ultimately engender credibility in the outcome.


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