The Somali presidential elections, which were scheduled to take place on October 10, will be rescheduled due to “administrative problems during the lead-up to the plebiscite,” according to government spokesperson Mohamed Ibrahim. This is far from the first time Somalia has delayed its elections. In fact, a direct election hasn’t been held since 1969.
From 1969 to 1991, Somalia was ruled by Soviet-backed military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Since he was ousted, subsequent governments have failed to construct a functional state. In 2017, the state finally held “indirect elections,” in which Members of Parliament (MPs) were elected by a handful of local clan members. The MPs picked Farmaajo, who promised to hold proper elections in 2020. The elections were cancelled due to the pandemic and terrorist activity. Since the constitution formally marked the end of President Farmaajo’s term in February 2021, his rule is currently unconstitutional.
Even with a legitimate mandate, however, Somalia’s central government struggled to enforce policy in local affairs. “Officials from Mogadishu [the capital city] cannot safely visit much of the country, let alone govern it” writes The Economist. Somalia is made up of a complex web of fractious, clan-based governments, all of which have diverging interests. Moreover, the country is threatened by Al-Shabab, an offshoot of the Islamic State that existed prior to 2007, which continues to bomb the capital, terrorize the countryside, and control large parts of the country by de facto rule. To the great dismay of local governments, President Farmaajo has shown little patience. Instead of using negotiation to unite the nation, he has opted for force and violence to sideline rivals.
The current government does have several achievements it can point to; former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and Minister of Finance Abdirahman Dualeh Beileh have met the conditions of forgiveness for Somalia’s debt and have successfully purged the country of much of its corruption. The illegitimacy of the president’s rule, however, has made it even more difficult for local governments to recognize the authority of the capital city. On February 21, for example, the leader of Puntland accused the president of acting like an autocrat. Abdirahman Abdishakur, a former minister running against him, has also called for his removal. “He cannot continue to act as president,” said Abdishakur. The opposition also points to the president’s apparent greater desire to maintain power than to build a democracy. In 2019, President Mohamed expelled the UN’s top envoy to Somalia for questioning whether the arrest of a leading candidate in a regional election was legal. Moreover, the president has also picked fights with neighboring Kenya and has created stronger diplomatic ties with Eritrea and its dictator, Isaias Afwerki. As such, Western democracies, which provide funding to the government of Somalia, are hesitant to continue backing a leader that acts against the very principles they strive to uphold. However, considering the lack of stability across the country, perhaps an illegitimate and iron-fisted ruler is better than none at all.
By: Edouard Des Parois Perrault