Elections are always intense, starting from the campaign period to the balloting day, and so is Somalia’s indirect electoral process. The campaigns for various positions are underway in the capital Mogadishu and the various regional capitals. On the streets of Kismayo and Mogadishu, one will see large campaign billboards erected by some of these candidates.
This indirect electoral process will culminate in the election of the country’s next President. The process is much different from the 2012 one: This is broad-based, where 14,000 people of the Somalia population are expected to be involved. The process to constitute the Upper House is almost complete and the selection of delegates who will vote for the MPs in the Lower House is ongoing. Fifty-one delegates will vote for each MP. The 2016 electoral process is not anything close to perfect, but it is much better than the one in 2012, where only 135 elders voted for MPs who in turn for voted for the President.
Unlike in the last election, this election will involve election of members of two houses, the Upper and Lower House, who will then vote for the President. It is also a break from the past, where the seats were allocated on the 4.5 clan power-sharing formula. This year, the seats will be allocated on the basis of states and regions.
While some may argue the process is incomplete, its advantages outweigh what we had in 2012. More people will participate because at the parliamentary level,voting will take place in at least six cities, including Mogadishu. In 2012, voting for both the President and MPs exclusively took place only in Mogadishu.
The major headache for organisers of this election is security. Al Shabaab has vowed to disrupt the election and already, it assassinated two famous elders involved in the process. The two were among the 135 clan elders who were tasked with selecting the delegates who will vote for the MPs. Somalia security institutions are very much still a work-in-progress. Securing the election relies on AU peacekeepers.
Other challenges are corruption and vote buying. So far, one presidential candidate has raised the alarm, claiming a lot of money exchanged hands during the recent election of the Upper House members. Vote buying marred the 2012 election in which the incumbent President Hassan Mohamoud was elected.
The current process was a result of months of deliberations that involved the various stakeholders. It had to be postponed for a month for what the Federal Indirect Elections Implementation Team termed lack of funds. The process will be funded from the government coffers, candidate fees and support from the international community.
Already, a number of candidates have declared their interest in the presidency. President Mohamoud is running on a promise to complete the progress Somalia has made. And to be fair to him, Somalia has made a leap forward in the past four years. His success is largely attributed to gains made on the international front.
Unlike the past governments, which were considered transitional governments, his has been given a warm welcome by leading actors on the international stage. The biggest was US recognition, which resulted in the World Bank and the IMF also recognising Somalia as a republic again.
But his critics argue his administration has failed on many fronts. The main criticism is insecurity. Despite massive investments by foreign donors, the government has failed to build a strong Somali Forces Army that is critical and useful to fight against al Shabaab.
This election is, therefore, an opportunity for Somalia to show what it can offer its ordinary citizen, and many hope for s peaceful transition.
The writer is a Communication specialist based in Mogadishu.