MOGADISHU (HOL) – Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo got two more years in office today following the endorsement of a unilateral resolution by the country’s Lower House. The parliament’s decision almost certainly kills any negotiated settlement to the electoral crisis that has gripped Somalia for months.
The 275 member chamber voted for the resolution whose text focused on the elections rather than a direct nod to the president for an extended stay in office.
By a show of hands, 149 MPs voted to approve the resolution.
The motion has not gone through Somalia’s senate, which is required by law.
The resolution directs the National Independent Elections Commission (NIEC) to organize elections in two years based on a one-person-one-vote basis.
The extension effectively brings Somalia right back to square one. President Farmajo was supposed to oversee the nation’s first-ever popular vote last year but failed to deliver. The NIEC finally conceded in early July that it was logistically unprepared to hold the elections, and preparations for an indirect election were made. Farmajo’s critics will question how he can organize the election in two years when he could not pull it off during his four-year mandate.
The resolution stipulated that voter registration must be done using a biometric system. However, of critical note is that Farmaajo now has two more years in office, which will make him the longest-serving president in post-civil war Somalia. Siad Barre served for 21 years under a military dictatorship.
Villa Somalia immediately welcomed the resolution terming it ‘historic.’ “President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo called on the Somali people to work together to seize this historic opportunity and participate in the country’s political process,” Villa Somalia said in a statement.
The contentious motion passed under heavy security, with elite forced being stationed at checkpoints throughout the city. Fifteen MPs who opposed the extension were conveniently barred from the session after they shouted down the Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Mursal, late last month for seeking term extensions, forcing him to adjourn the meeting. Ostensibly, the session was to discuss COVID-19, but the MPs suspected that Mursal was secretly tabling the motion to prolong Farmajo’s term in office.
Earlier in the day, Brig. Gen. Sadak Omar Hassan (John), a local police chief, announced that he had unilaterally suspended parliament and chastised lawmakers for seeking an extension. Less than half an hour later, Sadak was unceremoniously sacked by the Somali Police Commissioner Gen. Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijar through social media.
The move to add Farmaajo two more years in the office opens another battleground with the international community, including the UN Security Council, which has warned against term extension and parallel processes outside the September 17, 2020, electoral framework.
The decision will undoubtedly be met with fierce objection from Somalia’s opposition, who have been openly calling for Farmajo to step down since his constitutional mandate expired on February 8th.