Uncertainty over Somalia's elections deepens the political and security crisis in the country

 Since February 8, opposition and regional leaders have declared that they no longer recognise President Farmajo's authority as legitimate, proposing the creation of a National Transitional Council
El presidente de Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi 

PHOTO/AP   -   Mohamed Abdullahi, President of Somalia

Elections should have been held in Somalia on February 8, but as no agreement was reached in emergency consultations with regional governments in early February, the president had to declare elections postponed, without giving a new date for the polls.  

The term of office of current President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, ended on February 8, and although he proposed himself as an interim candidate, parliament did not approve him, arguing that the terms of the constitution prevented the extension of his government, even on a temporary basis. The now ex-president blames the postponement of the elections on the regional presidents, especially of the Somaliland, Jubaland and Puntland territories, accusing them of being manipulated by international forces. Two months ago, Somalia severed diplomatic relations with Kenya, denouncing its alleged interference in Jubaland's local affairs and attempts to control the government.

Los somalíes pasan por delante de vallas publicitarias que muestran a los candidatos Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame y Omar Abdulkadir Ahmedfiqi en Mogadiscio, Somalia, el viernes 29 de enero de 2021  AP/FARAH ABDI WARSAMED 
AP/FARAH ABDI WARSAMED -Somalis walk past billboards showing candidates Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame and Omar Abdulkadir Ahmedfiqi in Mogadishu, Somalia, Friday 29 January 2021

Since February 8, opposition and regional leaders have declared that they no longer recognise Farmajo's authority as legitimate, proposing the creation of a National Transitional Council composed of the presidents of the two Houses, regional leaders and representatives of civil society. While this proposal is being assessed, last week the recent ex-president convened an emergency meeting on February 15 with regional leaders in order to organise elections as quickly as possible. The UN Security Council, as well as the Secretary General, have been insisting in recent weeks on the importance of dialogue between the parties in order to hold the elections as soon as possible. This is the third time in a year that presidential elections have been delayed.  

Cartel de la campaña del presidente de Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, en Mogadiscio, Somalia, el 8 de febrero de 2021  REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR
REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR-The campaign poster of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in Mogadishu, Somalia on 8 February 2021.

This meeting, scheduled for February 15, should have discussed a fundamental issue, the composition of the electoral commission. During the last elections, the opposition strongly criticised the composition of the last electoral commission as corrupt, "full of intelligence agents", arguing that this body only represents the interests of the former president. At this meeting, the intention was to design a new electoral commission taking into account the views of regional and opposition leaders. These talks ultimately did not take place after a dispute over where to hold the meeting in question. Farmajo had proposed holding it in Garowe, Puntland state, but the regional governments preferred to hold it in the capital. The meeting has yet to be reconvened, following the cancellation of the last one. Following the news of the cancellation, the African Union and the United Nations have insisted on the need to find a solution in order to hold parliamentary and presidential elections, given the government's power vacuum.  

El primer ministro de Somalia, Mohamed Hussein Roble, se dirige a los miembros del parlamento en Mogadiscio, Somalia, el 10 de febrero de 2021  REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR 
REUTERS/FEISAL OMAR -Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble addresses members of Parliament in Mogadishu, Somalia on 10 February 2021

Somalia's electoral system is relatively complex and does not follow the traditional one-person-one-vote direct democratic system. Although the UN has tried to make the upcoming elections more inclusive and representative, the system to be used in the elections is the one that has been used in the last elections in Somalia, i.e. indirect suffrage. Parliamentary elections are held first and only 14,000 delegates representing clan interests from across the country vote. These delegates choose the 275 members of the lower house of parliament, the People. On the other hand, the 54 members of the Upper House, the Senate, are chosen by the regional councils. Both Houses choose the Speaker of Parliament and the President of the country.  

PHOTO/REUTERS - Soldados de las Fuerzas Armadas de Somalia 
PHOTO/REUTERS - Somali Armed Forces soldiers

Apart from the political crisis, Somalia faces a security crisis that has worsened in recent weeks. The jihadist group Al-Shabaab has taken advantage of the political crisis and uncertainty to carry out terrorist attacks across the country. The jihadist organisation has carried out attacks almost every day in the past week, particularly in the capital, targeting politicians, security officials and civil servants. On February 7, Al-Shabaab staged an attack that killed 12 Somali military personnel, including a head of the Somali intelligence service (NISA). Six days later, another attack took place at a checkpoint near the Parliament and Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, killing seven people and injuring ten others.