Elections to the Lower House are proceeding slowly in Somalia: only a handful of MPs have been elected out of the 275 to be nominated by December, a date that expresses Prime Minister Roble’s ultimate wish – and pressures from the international community.
At the same time, tensions are being renewed with the 14 opposition figures now gathered in the UPC (Union of Presidential Candidates). Very vocal among them is former President Sheikh Mohamud, while the current Prime Minister Roble met with former PM Sharmanke (December 5th) in a soothing gesture, similar to that reserved for the former Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament Jawari.
The aim is to defuse a situation that has again become tense. On the one hand, the opposition leaders are repeating criticism already stated in the first weeks of 2021, against a process that is neither credible nor transparent because it is controlled by President Farmajo through his influence on the central electoral bodies. They now add the accusation of pressure from the federal Governors, via the electoral Teams.
This fatal stranglehold would so constrain the free expression of the vote and the overall integrity of the electoral exercise that after calling for the dissolution of the FIET (Federal Commission for the Administration of the Vote), the 14 opposition candidates now do not hesitate to announce their intention to boycott the continuation of the process (November 30th). They paint a picture of fraud and instability and compare it to Libya and Afghanistan, Yemen and Ethiopia: trajectories of the expected involution.
The proverbial straw was the election of the interim Director of NISA (National Intelligence and Security Agency) Yasin Farey as an MP in Galmudug. Close to the President, his position had been at the centre of the last power clash with the PM, later resolved when the crisis in Tigray flared up again.
The UPC’s announcement appears to be a form of pressure to preserve areas of resistance for the opposition itself. Candidates from these areas have made several unanswered complaints, calling for greater fairness; the Union would also like more space in the media – and is pushing for the presence of election observers.
For the PM, it is necessary that the consultation maintains a wide margin of credibility within a path that is shared with the oppositions. Their denunciation of the role of the Governors suggests, however, that there are no significant levers for them to manoeuvre today, beyond denouncing the failure to comply with the May 27 agreements, promising consultations with the people, or appealing to the international community.
However, there is no eminent interest on this side in entering into the meanders of the Somali consultation. Farmajo himself went to Doha (November 30th to December 1st) to meet Emir Al Thani and discuss cooperation; the new Foreign Minister Muse Ali met the Turkish Ambassador in Mogadishu Yilmaz, the German Ambassador Hutter and the Chinese Ambassador Shengchao; a new group of elite soldiers returned home after training in Turkey. 12 militants were killed in the capital, while new acts of violence occurred in the interior areas and in Kismayo. A militant base in Lower Shabelle was destroyed and the UN Anti-Piracy Mission was renewed for a quarter.
The dilemma of whether an imperfect election is preferable to no election at all is still in the air, but internal and regional elements still seem to support a non-maximalist interpretation of the developments underway. The perspective remains short-term, an element of inherent instability.