Somalia’s elections were meant to begin on Saturday but the electoral team failed to meet the September 24 deadline for the start of the elections of members of the Lower House. This could mean a delay in the Presidential election slated for October 30. It does, however, give us a chance to acquaint ourselves with Somalia’s unique democracy that will see only 1% of the country’s population hitting the polls to elect new leaders.
This year’s election already has a lot of expectations to meet up to, considering it will be only the second time since 1969 that both the parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on Somalian ground. Previous years had seen elections unable to hold in Somalia due to the decades of civil war and terrorist attacks that marred the political landscape.
Somalia’s unique democracy is considered to be at its strongest, but of the country’s 12 million citizens, less that 1% of Somalia’s population of will be tasked with forming the country’s next government.
The unique democratic process is a result of a 2004 UN-brokered agreement which put voting power in the hands of clans. The reason for the agreement was to mitigate conflict over government seats.
With this democratic process, appointments are to be divided among the country’s four major clans, with the remainder distributed among a dozen minority clans and sub-clans.
In Somalia’s unique democracy, around 14,000 delegates representing the clans will select the 275 members of the lower house, while regional federal states will select the 54 members that make up the upper house of parliament in voting. The voting to fill the lower house and upper house for this year’s election was to take place between Sept. 24 and Oct. 10. Those lawmakers will then elect the next president on Oct. 30 and the President will pick the prime minister, who in turn will be tasked with forming a cabinet.
The body in charge of the polls, however, said in a statement issued September 21 that elders tasked with choosing the delegates who will elect members of the Lower House were yet to submit their lists to the electoral body. The body also said that it was facing financial, political and security challenges which could delay the electoral process.
Not everyone is in support of Somalia’s unique democracy as they worry that it benefits only an elite class and also widens the already existing rift between clans and sub-clans which blocks any chance of unifying Somalis based on nationhood.
True as that may be, the calming effect that the democratic process has had on what was a two-decade long civil war which ended (for the most part) in 2011 cannot be disputed. We’ll be watching to see the outcome of Somalia’s unique democratic process this year and how it continues to evolve.