The United Nations (UN) has expressed concern after a new delay in Somalia’s presidential and legislative elections, which the nation’s foreign minister blamed on political issues and threats from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al-Shabaab.
Due to start last weekend, the internationally-backed Somali elections have now been postponed again until late October according to Omar Mohamed Abdulle, the chairman of the electoral commission. Presidential elections will only take place on 30 November, while parliamentary elections have now been rescheduled to take place between 23 October and 10 November.
With direct elections beset by a number of issues including infrastructure constraints and security, the government – the term of which expired at the end of last month – announced in 2015 it was abandoning the idea of holding a popular one-person one-vote.
Instead, 14,000 delegates will select new parliamentarians, who will in turn appoint the president of the troubled Horn of African country. The appointments will effectively be made by clan-based electoral colleges.
Fears electoral process is ‘politically manipulated’
The UN special representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, said on 27 September that the UN officials were disappointed about the postponement, and that it was worried about potential “manipulation”.
Somalia’s first elections
Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when it drifted into a full-scale civil war.
The internationally-backed unity government formed in 2000 is seen as weak and dysfunctional by many Somalis.
The government said threats of internal conflict and from Islamist militant group al-Shabaab prevented it from organising a direct popular election.
The 2016 elections will be the first democratic electoral process in 47 years – there has not been a popular poll since the 1960s.
While the African nation technically held a presidential poll in 2012, President Hassan Mohamud’s outgoing government was only chosen by 135 leaders.
The prospect of a one-person one-vote election has been delayed up to 2020.
“The renewed delay raises a number of fears. Let me name just two: that the process is being politically manipulated, and that this delay may only be one of yet further ‘rolling delays’,” the UN official told the UN Security Council in New York.
“The urgency and the momentum must be maintained and the additional time used to ensure that the process is as transparent and credible as possible.”
Foreign Minister Abdusalam H Omer, meanwhile, tried to reassure the Security Council of “the unwavering commitment of the federal government to holding a credible and inclusive electoral process in 2016”.
Political and technical issues including agreements with tribal elders and voter delegates have been intensified by Al-Shabaab’s apparent intention to disrupt Somalia’s political transition: the group has increased its high-impact attacks over the past few months. As Somalia looks to be on the path of recovering from decades of civil war that has left up to half a million dead, Al-Shabaab carried out eight attacks on the capital Mogadishu, a city from which it withdrew in 2011.