Mogadishu – People’s ability to influence the future of their country by exercising their democratic rights was a topic of public discussions in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Kismayo, Garowe and Jowhar during October and November.
The public discussions supported by the United Nations Assistance
Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) brought together members of civil society
representing women, youth, elders, persons with disabilities, minorities
and marginalised groups, as well as local media.
One person, one vote
Participants spoke about the need for one person, one vote elections
rather than the current indirect elections that limit voters’ rights to
elect leaders of their choice. They were in agreement that direct
elections would benefit the country.
“We hope that our country will fully embrace democracy by adopting
the one person, one vote model,” said Fartun Aden Hayefow, Chairperson
of the Middle Shabelle Youth Association, addressing the audience
gathered in Jowhar.
“Everyone who is eligible should be able to contest or vote for the
candidate of their choice. If this happens, it will be a huge
opportunity for the youth to contest for political positions. In
addition, it is true that any government elected by the majority of the
people will be more responsive to the needs of the electorate,” Ms.
In the discussions, the opinions of the various groups about the future of democratic rights in Somalia often echoed each other.
“For this country to move forward and for our government to have real
legitimacy, we need to have a one person, one vote election in which
every eligible citizen takes part. Our democracy will be strengthened if
we hold universal, free, and fair elections,” said Garaad Abdullahi
Ducaale, a clan elder from Mogadishu.
Since 2004, Somalia has been holding indirect elections through which
traditional leaders select clan delegates, who in turn elect members of
parliament. The members of parliament then elect the president of the
country. These clan elders work under the 4.5 system, which gives the
country’s four major clans the same weight, while a group of minority
clans get the remaining half a point.
This method was criticised by some during the discussions for
excluding the majority of Somalis from direct voting. In the words of
one of the panellists in Baidoa, Salima Sheikh Shuceyb: “The 4.5 system
is a challenge faced by every Somali, not only by women. If there is one
person, one vote election, we [women] will give our vote to anyone we
feel we can count on for our rights. It doesn’t matter a man or a
woman; we want to elect someone who can be trusted. If all Somalis come
together, one person, one vote election will benefit the entire Somali
nation. Still, I would like to encourage women to cast their votes, be
heard and participate in politics.”
Somalia has one the world’s biggest ‘youth bulges’ – that is, around
60 per cent of its estimated population of 16 million people is under
the age of 30, according to the World Population Prospects, produced by
the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
The significant number of young people means a greater need to deal
with challenges related to their education, employment and a range of
other issues, including their representation in the political and
“If we adopt the one person, one vote method, it means that capable
young people will no longer have to go through clan elders. Direct
elections will offer an avenue for us to be elected on the strength of
our campaign strategies and the policies presented to the people,” said
student leader Muya Mizan Muya, on the sidelines of the public
discussion in Kismayo, Jubaland State.
Creating an enabling environment for persons living with disabilities
to fully participate in political processes as candidates or voters
featured prominently during the discussions.
“I want to run for political office, but I am at a disadvantage
because I am visually impaired and also because I come from a small clan
that has no power or say on who is elected as our representative in the
0.5. The only chance I have is if direct elections take place,” said
Dalmar Adow Maalin, a 32-year-old visually impaired aspiring politician
The electoral process, based on the provisional constitution adopted
in 2012, stipulates that women need to make up at least 30 per cent of
the seats in parliament. However, there are no policies or laws in place
to protect this quota, a situation made worse by the power of the
traditional leaders and religious scholars under the 4.5 clan formula.
Fatima Mohamed Ahmed, a women’s representative in Jowhar, Hirshabelle
State, said that a country could not make progress if it left the
majority of its people (i.e. women) unrepresented and kept away from
decision-making processes in matters that affect these people’s lives.
“We need to move away from indirect elections to one person, one vote
so that women can freely campaign for political office or vote for
candidates of their choice,” she added.
The public discussions, supported by UNSOM, are part of ongoing
efforts to promote the inclusion of all Somalis in having a say in the
future of their country.
The UN and international partners are committed to continuing to
provide political, financial, technical and logistical support to
Somalia’s electoral process.