Standoff Over The Federal Elections

Talks and meetings have been taking place in Mogadishu in recent days between regional states’ leaders, candidates and foreign diplomats to defuse the standoff over the federal elections.

The meetings began with the arrival of Jubaland President Ahmed Madobe and the candidates also met privately with the presidents of other regional states such as Puntland’s Said Deni, Galmudug’s Ahmed Qoorqoor and HirShabelle’s Ali Gudlawe.

During these meetings, many issues were discussed about the situation in the country, especially the election issues and how to move forward.

From the start, it was clear four regional leaders, Ahmed Qoorqoor from Galmudug, Omar Filish from Benadir, Ali Gudlawe from Hirshabelle and Abdi-Aziz Laftagaren from Southwest, were on the same page as the federal government when it comes to the election process.

However, different oppositions disputed the way the government was conducting the election process and started stalling the negotiations and even questioned the President’s legitimacy to administer the elections.

Two days ago, on March 18th, the different oppositions joined forces. Now, the newly formed National Salvation Forum which unites two regional leaders, the Union of Presidential Candidates and Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, the Speaker of the Upper House.

These diverse oppositions is structured around a common purpose: block President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo from winning another term.

The new group has the advantage of clarifying the meeting points between the two leaders, Deni and Madobe, the Union of Presidential Candidates and Abdi Hashi’s agenda.

The four members committee represents Puntland, Jubaland, a large part of Somaliland and a large part of Hirshabelle and Benadir.

If they succeed in effectively harnessing the electoral power of MPs from those regions, they are sure to defeat the outgoing president.

If we understand that the two regions, Jubaland and Puntland, want to strengthen the status quo of a weak power of the federal administration, what is the objective of the others?

By looking at the configuration of the National Salvation Forum, we see that the UCP are represented by a single candidate, Ahmed Sheikh Sharif, while the two regional leaders are both present. It is irrelevant to emphasize on the symbolism of Abdi Hashi.

The other question we ask ourselves is who leads whom? Is it the candidates or the leaders?

If it is the two recalcitrant, Deni and Madobe, who leads the dance, it means that they have succeeded in convincing the UCP of their failure to remove President Farmajo from power when they were given plenty of time to do so after the February 8th.

Also that it is the two regional leaders who have the key and the power to tighten the screws on Farmajo and that without them he would not have given in on many subjects like the Gedo region for example.

Another argument against the UPC is that they do not have the right to speak because they are not signatories of the September 17th accord. And so advocating for their presence at the next meeting is futile and difficult to defend.

One thing to note is that neither Deni nor Madobe have expressed an intention to run for president. They want to play kingmakers and they already know what kind of personality they want at Villa Somalia.

One bet is that they prefer Hassan Sheikh since they have worked with him before and their relationship with him is very cordial.

Indeed, Hassan let the regional leaders do what they want to the point of transferring certain prerogatives from the central government to the regions. For example, he had transferred the country’s air traffic control to Somaliland.

He let them dictate their own terms to the federal government, of which he stripped almost all of its prerogatives. This weakening of the central government goes against Farmajo’s principles as we have witnessed in recent years.

Many Somalis are shocked at the absurdity of giving too much credit to politicians such as Deni or Madobe who crack down on political opponents and restrict public freedoms in their own region to block federal elections because they want to be consulted on matters that are within federal jurisdiction.

In the coming days, the whole Somali nation, anxiously await the outcome of these talks planned for March 22nd and 23rd.

The elections talks are not only about the choice of MPs and the president, but are also a standoff between two visions of national politics. Granting excessive power to regional leaders like Said Deni and Ahmed Madobe will further isolate the local population and make Somalia a constellation of banana republics.

AbdiQani Badar

AbdiQani Badar is a historian, political commentator and avid writer. He has written extensively on Somali issues and historical events.