Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo recently signed a federal law that lays the groundwork for a one-person, one-vote electoral system, ahead of elections, scheduled for December, 2020. Such a change will make this the first popular election Somalia has held since 1969, when the Supreme Revolutionary Council staged a coup, and installed Siad Barre president. The new law will do away with the 4.5 power-sharing formula, a governing scheme initiated by Somali leaders and the United Nations that gave the country’s four majority clans equal representation in government, with the remainder allocated to smaller clans grouped together as the “0.5”.
What was once meant as a temporary measure to reduce political instability and violence has now become an obstacle to democratic progress. The 4.5 formula entrenches the power of Somalia’s main clans, and minimizes the political power of Somali minorities and women. Clans will still have representation in parliament under the new law, which has some Somalis and international observers worried about the efficacy of the new law. Others take the more hardline stance that Somalia’s legal and political infrastructure is not in place for a full popular election. Opposition leaders and representatives from Somalia’s federal states claim that they were not consulted on the bill, and have effectively been blindsided by its ratification.
Why It Matters
Somalia passed a law in 2016 that established a parliamentary quota for 30 percent of its seats to be held by women, a goal that has not been met yet, although there has been some improvement: 24 percent of the seats in the 329-seated parliament are held by women, a 10 percent increase from the 2012 election. Somali women’s organizations have been at the forefront of Somalia’s democratization movement, with the December election turning into a referendum on Somalia’s democratic reform efforts, with growing political and legal equality for women.
Upon the bill’s passing, the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in Somalia’s northeast closed the offices of the national electoral commission and called for a meeting of federal member states to discuss the election and Somalia’s federalism project. It’s hoped these talks would be used to address representational concerns from Puntland and the other breakaway province of Somaliland, and lead to consensus on the way forward.