Are Somalia’s Elections in Jeopardy After Parliament Ousted the Prime Minister?

Photo/Somali Times/Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed

By Andrew Green

Somalia’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to remove Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire in a no-confidence vote last Saturday, citing his failure to prepare the country for democratic elections by early next year. The surprise move,

which was supported by 170 of Parliament’s 178 lawmakers, follows Khaire’s dispute with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed over the timing of national elections. Though preparations have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing insecurity in Somalia, Khaire was pushing for the vote to take place by early 2021 as scheduled. The president, known as Farmajo, favored a delay.

With Khaire’s ouster, it is unclear when elections will actually happen or what they will look like. The elections have taken on heightened significance after leaders promised a nationwide ballot based on the principle of “one person, one vote,” in what would be Somalia’s first democratic elections since 1969. The country has been using a complex system in which elders and clan leaders choose lawmakers, who then select the president.

A democratic vote is seen as “a step away from clan-based politics and closer to a legitimate, representational model,” Halima Ismail Ibrahim, the chairwoman of Somalia’s National Independent Election Commission, told Ilya Gridneff in a March briefing for World Politics Review.

Planning has been disrupted by COVID-19 and by the al-Qaida-affiliated extremist group al-Shabab, which has continued almost daily attacks against Somali security forces, officials and civilians despite the pandemic, as Abdullahi Abdille Shahow reported in a WPR briefing in May. Ibrahim has also faulted the government for failing to provide adequate resources and recently acknowledged the proposed timeline is no longer realistic.

But with Farmajo’s term set to expire in February 2021, Khaire had raised concerns over the constitutionality of a delay. One of Khaire’s allies has accused the president and lawmakers of removing him so they could extend their terms in office. The government even briefly shut down the internet in some parts of the country to contain the political fallout from Khaire’s ouster. Farmajo moved quickly to install Khaire’s deputy, Mahdi Mohamed Guled, as interim prime minister, while he searches for a permanent replacement.

Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Mursal pushed back against accusations of any political scheming, saying Farmajo “will appoint a prime minister and a government, which will pave the way for elections.”

Source: World Politics Review