Somalia’s South West state elects new senators

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Somalia’s South West state on Monday elected five senators, becoming only the second federal region in the country to vote in new representatives to the Upper House.

But the vote held in Baidoa, the interim capital of the State, came amid complaints of favourtism from some of the contenders thrown out of the nomination list.

South West, like Jubbaland which elected five new senators last week, is allocated eight seats in the Upper House. And the local legislative assembly is supposed to endorse or reject nominees provided by the local state president.

And like Jubbaland, local state President Abdiaziz Laftagareen, chose to nominate candidates for the five seats, instead of eight.

It saw Ms Zamzam Ibrahim Ali becoming the first senator elected in Baidoa, and successfully retaining her seat in the Upper House.

Ms Ali beat Ms Sharifo Osman Ibrahim, garnering 81 votes against 4 votes obtained by the latter while 7 votes were spoiled.

According to the list of the candidates who were selected “on the basis of the serious intentions to contest” for the five seats, four women and six men were sent to the local parliament for a vote.

“Three seats are going to be contested by six male candidates, [and]four women are going to contest for the remaining two seats,” said Yusuf Abdulkadir, the chairman of the State Electoral Implementation Team (SEIT) for South West, ahead of the polls on Monday morning.

The election of the five senators in Baidoa was preceded by the election of 4 senators in Kismayu town, the interim capital of Jubbaland of Somalia, on 29th of July.

In South West, however, two outgoing senators Ilyas Ali Hassan and Hussein Mohamud complained of foul play after their names were removed from the list and the seats allocated to other clans.

Under Somalia’s electoral law, Federal State Presidents wield lots of power when it comes to senators’ elections. They choose names of candidates based on a specified criteria including clan membership, ability to pay requisite fees and other conditions. However, they could as well settle scores with it given there is little challenge one can make if they feel unfairly left out.

Under this elections, Somalis are also struggling to achieve the proposed 30 percent quota for women in parliament. Mr Abdiaziz allocated some of the seats to women, but losing contenders argued it had been based on favouritism, rather than need for gender parity.

The much-delayed indirect elections are being held in spite of various challenges such as security and a looming famine that has seen officials admit some 6 million people are in danger of starvation.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble who is the top most official in-charge of the elections in Somalia, nonetheless commended the progress and urged all the remaining states and all those involved in the electoral processes to accelerate the implementation of the elections.

On Sunday, PM Roble met with Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, the speaker of the outgoing Upper House of the parliament and Mahdi Mohamed Guled, the deputy prime minister of Somalia.

Abdullahi and Guled are leading two opposing factions of the politicians from the northwestern region also known as Somaliland. The two sides are at loggerheads over the leadership of the electoral processes that are supposed to elect senators and MPs for the Lower House of the parliament.

After the meeting, the Spokesman of the Government Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu, stated, “The meeting was one intended by PM Roble to get debriefing from both sides that were requested to clear differences a week ago.”

Moalimu added, “Speaker Abdullahi requested for one more day before passing on his conclusion.”

The Somaliland election process is expected to generate over 61 MPs to the Lower House and 11 senators through a special arrangement to be held in Mogadishu.

Somaliland, an authority in Hargeisa city, which unilaterally declared to be independent from the rest of Somalia, does not consider itself be part of the Federal Government of Somalia.

On Sunday, 25th of July, PM Roble took a giant step by appointed 13 activists led by Ms Batulo Ahmed Gabale, the Chairperson of the Somali National Women’s Association, to advocate and ensure that 30 percent quota for female seats are attained in the bicameral Somalia parliament.

The move to fight for seats allocated for women is lauded by both Somali and foreign supporters.

Ms Zahra Haji Khalif, a women affairs activist in Mogadishu, acknowledges that the associated with election of women to political, decision making positions is hampered by Somalia being a patriarchal clan-based society.

“Our lineage is traced paternally, rendering for women participation in clan-based, power sharing politics,” said Ms Khalif.

In a joint statement last Thursday, Somalia’s international partners, a group of multilateral organizations and countries, partly stated, “Among recent examples of progress is the PM (Roble) appointing Goodwill Ambassadors to promote the women’s 30 percent quota.”

Both the Federal Electoral Implementation Team and the Federal Electoral Dispute Resolution Team have sent representatives to Baidoa town to ensure the smooth running of the election and that all procedures were observed.

This is technically a repetition of what was done in Kismayu town last whereby the Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Madobe submitted the list of the contestants for each seat and the local legislators voted for the contestants for each seat.

In Baidoa, the President of South West State of Somalia Abdiaziz Hassan Laftagareen submitted the names of the 10 contestants, leaving the legislators to vote for the candidates and the SEIT to manage the process while representatives of both the federal implementation and dispute resolution teams closely observing the process.

Yet to start elections are the federal member states of Puntland, Galmudug and Hirshabelle and the special delegates to be assembled to vote for the senate and lower House members for Somaliland.

Somalia’s parliamentary elections were supposed to take place in 2020, but squabbles between the Federal Govrnment and some of the leaders of the federal member states delayed the process until an accord reached on 27th of May by PM Roble and the leader of the five FMS presidents of Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South West and Jubbaland plus the Mayor of Mogadishu paved the way for the election to take place between July and October 2021.

The end of Somalia’s election season is marked by the presidential election, scheduled to take place in a joint session of the Upper and Lower Houses of the Parliament on 10 October. It is expected to attract divese candidates including the incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajaajo and a galaxy of challengers including Former Somali Presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.

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