Somalia ushers in new era with universal suffrage in 2024

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – In a monumental stride towards a more democratic Somalia, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared in March his commitment to abolishing the convoluted indirect voting system that has been the country’s mainstay since 1969.

The landmark change aims to introduce a one-person, one-vote system that promises an empowered electorate and an independent, corruption-free multiparty political setup.

Stepping away from clan politics

Somalia’s history has been marked by decades of conflict, political chaos, and natural disasters, with a recent severe drought adding to the country’s woes.

The indirect voting system, rooted in clan affiliations, had governed Somali politics since 1969 when Siad Barre seized power.

Influential roles in government, such as the Speaker, Prime Minister, and President, have traditionally been divided among main clan groups.

The national parliament members, chosen by clan delegates and state legislatures, subsequently select the president.

However, interclan rivalries have led to a prolonged period of strife and political deadlock, a volatile environment that Al-Shabab militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda have exploited to their advantage.

“We need to break away from the past. Politics isn’t about dominance; it’s about the organization of ideas. Clan politics no longer has a place in our national political discourse,” said President Mohamud, emphasizing the need for universal suffrage.

The dawn of democracy

As a harbinger of change, Somalia witnessed its first universal suffrage elections since 1969 last Thursday.

These elections took place in Puntland, a semi-autonomous state, demonstrating a progressive shift in the country’s political landscape.

Even though some security incidents marred the voting, the United Nations, African Union, and various neighboring governments have hailed this as a ‘historic’ vote.

Puntland’s neighbor, Somaliland, declared independence in 1991 but has yet to receive international recognition and taken direct voting.

Observers believe these instances of direct elections can serve as models, inspiring the expansion of democracy across Somalia.

Future prospects

After four days of meetings by the National Consultative Forum, a consensus for nationwide universal suffrage was reached, marking a significant turning point.

This forum included President Mohamud, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, and federal state leaders. However, as the region voted, Puntland’s state president, Said Abdullahi Deni, was absent from the meeting.

Additionally, the agreement advocates for a single presidential ticket where voters would elect a president and a vice-president, essentially eliminating the Prime Minister’s role.

President Mohamud’s re-election in May 2022 followed an extended political crisis after the federal government and regional states failed to concur on a presidential selection mechanism.

President Mohamud, serving a second term, has pledged to tackle the country’s myriad issues and to provide relief to citizens worn down by Al-Shabab violence, rising inflation, and the devastating drought.

“I foresee a bright future for our country,” Mohamud expressed optimistically, becoming the first Somali president to be elected to a second term, serving from 2012 to 2017.

With this significant reform, Somalia is taking steady steps toward political stability and progress.