By: Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein
The President of Puntland, Said Abdulahi Deni, was elected January 8, 2019 in a process to
which all stakeholders agreed. The moment he was elected, the candidates running against him
congratulated him. The election was not based on “one person, one vote,” but it was the
system that Puntland had used since 1998, always successfully, despite minor disagreements
before elections took place.
President Deni was elected, he stated that he would implement a one person, one
vote election at the end of his term. Most Puntlanders welcomed that news,
thinking he would probably be the first president who would accomplish that
goal. Immediately after his election he moved to implement an election based on
one person, one vote. Three districts were chosen as test areas, before the
rest of the districts were added.
those three districts are being run by those who were elected. President Deni’s
party, Kaah, even though accused of using government resources in its campaign,
unexpectedly did not win. Immediately, President Deni put a stop to open
elections based on one person, one vote, where individual candidates ran for
city council positions, and people knew who they were voting for and what they
expected the candidate to do for their city, because that is what the candidate
was said that when he realized that the one person, one vote system was not
something with which he could win the presidency, President Deni tried to run
for the presidency of Somalia. He won the first round, but lost that election.
Upon his return to Puntland, with less than two years of his term remaining, he
restarted the implementing of elections based on one person, one vote.
time around, the two people leading the election committees were removed from
their posts due to disagreements and their rejection of government interference
in the process. The Minister of Internal Affairs was also replaced. The new
team put in place, under President Deni, was able to change the whole election
process. In the first three districts, the election had been based on one
person, one vote. The candidates campaigned for their positions. The
constituents were able to elect the candidates they believed would fulfill the
promises made during their campaigns.
new election, planned for the other districts, has a voting system where people
cast their votes for a party. The party would then submit a list of candidates
ranked from, for example, first to fifth. If there are five candidates from a
party running for a city council, and that party secures enough votes to win
one seat, then the person ranked first on the list will be allocated that seat.
The other four candidates would be unsuccessful.
problem arises when the person ranked second on the party list, who lost in the
election, believes that more people in the county would have voted for him or
her. It is deemed unfair for the person ranked second to have lost the vote. In
essence, the election, which has been altered from the approach used in the
first three districts, cannot be considered a true “one person, one vote”
has been suggested that President Deni believed his party, Kaah, could benefit
from this arrangement due to the extensive use of government resources, and the
fact that government officials, ranging from the Vice President, Chairman of
the Parliament, Ministers, and even clerks, are members of the party. When
President Deni’s plan to change the election process became apparent, eight
opposition parties opposed it.
six of those parties reached an agreement with Kaah on nine of the eleven
matters they had requested. The other two matters required reopening the
Puntland constitution, which is not feasible, considering the limited time
remaining in President Deni’s term.
was the situation last year. President Deni has now come to realize that after
the council election on May 25, 2023, the three parties most likely to win are
his party, Kaah, and two others, Mideye and Sancad, which competed against Kaah
and emerged victorious in two of those first three districts. As a result, he
has requested a change in the constitution, whereby the first three winning
parties in the election will be the permanent top five parties.
is worth noting that this is the same president who stated last year that the
constitution cannot be altered due to the limited time remaining in his term.
He now wishes to modify the constitution because he believes it will benefit
Kaah. The Puntland Political Forum (PPF) held a press conference asking him to
clarify his intentions following the council election on May 25. He has not yet
announced what steps the government will take after the council election.
familiar with his plan have stated that he wants to assess the outcome of the
election, to gauge his party’s performance. If Kaah secures a majority of
votes, those acquainted with President Deni’s intentions claim he will proceed
the current election system to parliamentary and presidential elections, as he
is confident of winning. However, if Kaah appears to be losing the council
election, he will likely seek an extension and devise another plan to ensure
his party gains an advantage.
election cannot be deemed fair, as President Deni’s actions regarding the
election depend on how Kaah performs under the previous measure he has taken.
However, he is placing blame on the opposition group and the PPF, accusing them
of not supporting an election based on one person, one vote and being
financially backed by the federal government. In reality, these groups have
never said that they oppose one person, one vote. All they have requested is
for the president to declare all the steps leading up to January 8, 2024, when
the presidential election is due to take place.
Puntlanders believe President Deni gained popularity due to statements made by
President Hassan Sheikh and his prime minister, who warned that if President
Deni did not heed the people’s demands, Puntland may cease to exist within 24
days, after its 24-year existence. Furthermore, more Puntlanders are now supporting
President Deni not necessarily because they believe he will lead them to
democracy, but because they want to prove President Hassan Sheikh and Prime
Minister Hamza wrong.
week, when Puntland forces attempted to transport election equipment from
Garowe to Bossaso, it was reported that other Puntland forces, who support the
opposition and perceive the election as unfair, opposed the transport. This led
to fighting, resulting in two deaths and seven injuries. Traditional elders
intervened and reported that they had reached an agreement with President Deni,
stating that if the May 25, 2023 city council elections take place, the
president is willing to meet the opposition group.
analyst familiar with Puntland politics stated that this is not a new
agreement, as it was the president’s plan all along to wait and see how his
party performed. Additionally, the president did not hold a press conference to
announce the agreement with the traditional elders. Furthermore, during a
speech in Iskushuban town, he described the opposition as a small group that
opposes the one person, one vote system. He accused them of daydreaming.
added that if someone is dreaming, it would be better to dream while sleeping.
With such an attitude, President Deni does not appear willing to reach an
agreement or come to the negotiation table. The best way forward is for him to
come to his senses and recognize that he was elected into a system that all
stakeholders agreed upon. If that system is to be changed to one that everyone
desires, including the opposition, the president must ensure that it is agreed
upon by all stakeholders.
the president attempts to dictate the process and extend his rule, he will end
up in the same situation as the two other presidents, Faramajo of federal
government last year and Muse Bihi of Somaliland, who took a similar path.
President Deni may have briefly won over the opposition, but in the end,
Puntlanders will come to realize his true colors and he will be responsible any
consequence of an election which the process was not agreed upon. His proper
course of action is to negotiate and to reach a compromise agreement that
establishes a level playing field, giving the winner of that system a
legitimate mandate to govern.