Somalia’s president commits to universal suffrage
AFP, Wednesday March 22, 2023
Demonstrators hold flags during a rally against the Al-Shabaab jihadist group in Mogadishu on January 12, 2023. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has declared “all-out war” against Al-Shabaab, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against the frail internationally-backed federal government for 15 years. (Photo by Hassan Ali Elmi / AFP)
(AFP) – Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the country would organise the next national elections by universal suffrage, a departure from an indirect voting system that has often triggered crises.
The fragile Horn of Africa nation has not held a one-person, one-vote election in more than 50 years.
Instead, polls follow a complex indirect model, where state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.
“The next election… God willing… will be one-person-one vote that is based on a political party system,” Mohamud said late Monday.
“Party platforms will be the market for selling political ideas,” he told legislators gathered in his palace in the capital Mogadishu.
The country’s next polls are planned for May 2026.
Clans have been the organising principle of Somalia’s politics with influential roles such as speaker, prime minister and president divided among the main clans.
But rivalries between the clans have provided fertile ground for years of strife and political wrangling, that have been exploited by the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants.
– Confronting jihadists –
“Politics is not about dominance, it is about organisation of ideas and therefore, the clan politics is not relevant to the Somali national politics,” Mohamud said.
“I can see a bright future for this country.”
Last year, Mohamud defeated a field of 36 candidates for the top job after a protracted political crisis that arose after the federal government and regional states failed to agree on a mechanism to pick a president.
The 67-year-old, whose first administration between 2012-2017 was dogged by claims of corruption and infighting, became the first Somali president to win a second term.
Since retaking office, he has vowed to confront myriad problems and bring relief to citizens weary of violence by Al-Shabaab jihadists, surging inflation and a worsening drought that threatens to drive millions into famine.
Mohamud has staged an “all-out war” on the militants, rallying Somalis to help flush out members of the jihadist group he described as “bedbugs”.
Despite the gains by the pro-government forces, the militants have continued to demonstrate the ability to strike back with lethal force against civilian and military targets.
Somalia sank into a devastating civil war in 1991 when warlords ousted president Mohamed Siad Barre, plunging the country into years of chaos