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Why is opening political parties crucial for Somaliland?

Somaliland’s constitutional court made the verdict that political parties should be open six months before the expiration date of their current political parties. Traditionally, political parties’ elections are held along with local government elections, and parties that gather 20% qualify for partyhood. However, this year the situation has changed. The local government election was held last year, so there was a need for clarification on how political parties would now be elected.

The court has now made it clear that a direct vote will elect that political party, and those who get the majority of votes from every region will constitute the political parties. This verdict rules out any hope of extension that the current political parties were holding onto or looking for before the court’s verdict. They must now prepare for the election, either before the presidential election or after, which is a matter that I will now turn to in the discussion below.

Controversy

Somaliland is entering a critical year where at least three elections, presidential, Guurti, and political party elections are due to be held this year. The difficult part about this issue is not so much the holding of these elections on time as how the various stakeholders want them to take place.

For instance, the public wants to see new political parties enter the fray to give people choices, as the current parties have failed to provide alternative policies. Whereas the opposition parties want the election of the presidential election to take place on time, the currently licenced parties are the only ones with the right to take part in the election. The opposition parties know they are not the people’s choice and that allowing new politicians onto the political stage would completely negate their aspirations.

On the other hand, the government is not ready to hold the election on time, and some have already accused it of looking for an extended period.

The government may want to hold the Guurti and political party elections first, so the presidential election will be the last one to be held. Just to make it clear, this is also my personal opinion. I’m neither privy to this matter nor an insider, but I assume Kulmiye is not ready to go to election, and it may try to find other channels to stay in power for the foreseeable future. Additionally, the government is utilising the public mood, which is basically one of rejection of the current political parties. The majority do not see the current political leaders as alternatives to lead the nation. Therefore, there is a public push concerning political parties, and this is what the current government wants to ride on.

By contrast, the political parties see the above as something akin to a war being conducted against them. They know they have a little chance of returning if the elections are held before the presidential election, and they are ready to do everything they can to stop this from arising. For instance, recently, the Watani Party leaders traveled to Buroa to seek support and allegedly advised the support to get ready with everything they could to stop what they see as a threat. There has been an intense mood among Wadani supporters who believe that their party has an excellent chance of election on this occasion, and any move to broaden the political arena represents nothing more than a manufactured manoeuvre to prevent them from gaining that opportunity.

Of course, they do not want to see the party in which they have invested so much stumble just before it reaches the presidential gates,and they know that Mr. Cirro – the current candidate – stands no chance against other potential candidates, not even his own constituents. Consequently, Wadan is pushing for the presidential elections to be held on time; they will do everything possible in this regard.

Additionally, UCID – the country’s third party, UCID contested at least three presidential elections, and each one garnered less than 10% of the total vote. It occupies a constitutional position since three political parties are allowed, yet the party is not delivering anything. It has essentially no chance of winning an election if it runs for such because there is no voter base for the UCID party.

In my view, a party like this should not be on the political stage, and Somaliland must support Faisal’s post-political party state. Despite his usual controversial remarks, which cause hysteria, Faisal has played a vital role in the state-building stages, reconciliation, and the country’s democratisation process, for this reason, I strongly believe that Faisal should have a role in our institution after his political party. He has been an ardent supporter of democracy, though he has failed to reflect that in his party, where he has run for at least three presidential elections, and the UCID party becomes one man’s party. However, I strongly suggested that he be treated decently and given a role in Guurti once his party vanishes. At least that would work as a post-party psychological and moral treatment.

Where I stand on this matter

Although Somaliland has held its elections in difficult circumstances in recent years, which have enhanced the country’s reputation in a region where elections are otherwise a rarity, elections are costly and can be sources of conflict in a country where institutions are frail and, in particular, where clan sentiments are strong.

But, by God’s grace, Somaliland has held a number of successful elections that the international community has described as credible, fair, and free; the most recent of these was held in May 2021.

I understand the importance of holding the election of Guurti. The Guurti House is very important to Somaliland’s institution-building. It has played a constructive role in the country’s early history in terms of both establishing the state and its subsequent efforts.

Recently, however, the House lost its role. Many of its original members have died, and their posts have been inherited by family members who have neither the experience nor the ability to fulfill them. The House needs new blood, and its election is crucial. My position is that Somaliland should make the Guurti election its top priority, and should be run this year. Somaliland’s president must carry out a broad-ranging consultation on this matter and that, before his tenure expires, he ensures that the Guurti election is held. The election should not be an extensive one. A less expensive selection process could be conducted, for instance. I believe that if we studied options for holding the Guurti election it could be conducted in a straightforward manner, but it needs the nation to prioritise it. Likewise, the country needs political choices, which are currently being limited by the very existence of these three parties, so the election of the country’s political parties is also crucial and can be considered to be the most important. Why is it important? I firmly believe neither Cirro nor Faisal could be good presidents.

We have seen their leadership, and as a result, we are in a position to judge them, and where I stand on that matter is that I see both as being incapable of leading the country. Therefore, it is unfair on people like me who are not happy with current political leaders to deny the chance to see other potential and credible politicians who could lead the nation in a far more effective manner.

Since democracy is all about offering options to the public, and current parties have failed to even maintain this basic principle, they can be considered unfit for purpose. We all know if democracy is exercised at the party level; none of these leaders would have been elected as leaders, but once parties turned to man-owned parties, one ends up in the current situation. We need a complete overhaul of the political parties to establish new parties that allow democracy to grow and develop at the party level, and that will only come once we remove the current parties from the political scene and ensure that whoever comes belongs to and serves the public. Yes, it will require an immense amount of work to ensure any following

political parties are different from those we have now. I think this tweaking of the election process, where people vote directly for the parties, will actually result in massive change, and parties need people from each region who would be stakeholders in the parties’ possible futures.

The way forward

In the above discussion, we explored the importance of holding the elections and the associated challenges that need to be addressed. Somaliland needs to hold the constitution Guurti election to modernise the House to keep up with other institutions. Also, both political and presidential parties should take part in this year’s elections, but the question is how three such crucial elections can reasonably be held in such a short space of time. Somaliland’s president should convene consultations to find a consensus among stakeholders and expedite the process. What we need is the spirit and will to address these challenges. However, I’m not personally sure that I can see the spirit and determination this work requires to get done. We need to see Somaliland’s current leaders put their own interests and those around them aside and put the country first.

If you asked me how I would approach this puzzle, I would argue that political party registration in the Guurti election would represent an initial step towards piecing together this jigsaw. If Somaliland does this and takes on this ‘togetherness’, I’m sure this would work, but it needs courage and leadership from our leaders. You may suspect and accuse of being partial on this matter, but I’m neither Kulmiye nor part of this government. There is no reason I should advocate an extension. I see only that this would serve the nation’s best interests. If we agree and approach this complex matter with open minds, as I argued at the end of this year2022, we could hold at least two elections: the Guurti election, and political registration and their election.

What is the benefit of this? First, we held the Guurti election, which ultimately became undemocratic and strayed from the objectives and goals that had been established. We removed a house that had become a burden and an obstacle to the process of democratization. We managed to bring fresh blood to our growing democracy and reformed the decrepit and disfigured House spirit. We once again restored the purpose of the House. On the other hand, by holding political registration and elections this year, we would increase public choice, and perhaps this new opportunity might have allowed for a better leader than the current one, who had not previously found the opportunity to contest and be elected. This would enable voters to find a leader who is a better choice than we have now. We all know none of the current leaders represent our preferred choices, but the system forces voters to choose among those presented. So, we allow other politicians to enter the stage; we have thus addressed this issue. Just imagine what we can achieve in a short time if we work together in the spirit of honesty and openness and put the country first.

My argument is, and I believe that we can, that Somaliland will hold at least two elections by December of this year, 2022, but this can only happen if the president and other stakeholders are serious about holding vital elections. Once the political parties’ elections and Guurti are completed, nothing is wrong if we extend the six-month presidential election.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ahmed Hassan, BA/MA, Cairo University—Agriculture and community development, Middlesex University, London, sustainable development and global governance, is a keen writer and commentator on Somaliland/Somalia and regional politics. He can be reached via @Qarrandoon


Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints of the Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff.
 

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Notice: This article by Somaliland Chronicle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Under this license, all reprints and non-commercial distribution of this work are permitted.

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