After two decades of progressive democracy in this pocket of the horn of Africa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somaliland The odds are high and much is at stake during the upcoming local government elections. An election that will determine who is who in the crowning process for the top three political parties, to be recognized as the only three legitimate national political parties.
Brief Historic Backgroun: The referendum to allow multipart system in Somaliland was initiated in the year 2000 and was overwhelmingly passed. The process that followed was commendably unique, given the existing intricate political environment.
The executive led by the parliament elected president and in agreement with the other governing bodies namely the parliament and the house of elder collaborated in the putting in place of a unique multi party system. Considering the Somali tribal nature they agreed on limiting the political parties to three political parties. As there were no political parties in existence at the time they agreed on having all interested parties register their political parties.
After registration each party must gunner certain number of supportive counts from each region of the existing Somaliland regions. After the first phase, only those entities that garnered the required numbers of supporter in addition to having physical representations in all regions qualifies for the second phase.
During the second round the parties will engage in hotly contested campaign for the local elections. The top three political parties that earns 20% of the votes from each region will be crowned as national political parties. Henceforth the three parties can engage each other in the vying for the Parliamentary and the presidential elections
During this period none of the leaders and representatives of the three branches of the government were directly elected by the people, hence the initiation of a major reform. A reform that despite of all its shortcomings not only helped in the peaceful transition of power after the head of the executive branch passed away in May 2002, but at the same time stood out as the pivotal foundation to two historic presidential elections, one parliamentary and local government elections. The last peaceful transfer of power by the previous administration to the current one just took place couple years ago and is still vivid in the memories of many.
The Current Amendments
The system worked well and there were three political parties in place until recently when the newly elected administration amended the constitution in response to its campaign promise. The regional political pundits explain it as a brilliant political maneuver of its kind. It is referred to as not only creation of alliances when needed be but a way countering it as well when it matures into a threat. In accordance to the parliamentary constitution amendment the political party’s elections were let to recur every ten years starting with the current year.
Coming back to the topic, which is to guard and protect the progressive democratic evolvement in this region. I will say that initially this kind democratic process was purposefully enacted by the then founding fathers for the initial launching of the democratic process and not as a continuous and unending recurring process. It just boggles every sane mind, and does not make any political and democratic sense as to why we should nullify and reestablish national political parties every ten years.
Now that it has been reincarnated and legitimized, this kind of process I would say would not help but degenerate the democratic process that took lengthy of time and resources to create.
The upcoming local elections have re-energized tribal sentiments, unholy alliances, with each political figure leaning on it and just to use it as a pole vault in the ascendance to power.
Eavesdropping into numerous political gatherings in the Diasporas I observed heated discussions and enormous efforts of tribal fundraisings for this purpose. If only such passions and energy could be directed in fundraising for essentially fundamental and real needs in those areas, there would be in place well established and sustainable educational and healthcare centers. Instead many would go to any length, fundraising for tribally shrouded political interests, steered by few crooked schemers who are good at coming off as patriotic individuals but veiled in the art of tribal politics. These individuals would stop at nothing for their own personal gains
The Misplaced Priorities;
The democratic process as it stood was in a good progress until the constitutional crisis during the previous administration in its attempt to lengthen its power. The struggle resulted in the delaying of the presidential election and subsequently the parliamentary and the local government. The need for reforms in the election process adding the house of elders into the process was one other major object to the completion of the democratization process. All in all with international interventions and pressures the election were held and the current ruling administration won with a landside. The ceremonial switch of power and the following celebratory moments the new administration was hailed with high expectations and hopes for new and fresh political direction, one of them being continuity in the democratization process.
To many surprise the administration priorities in progressing democratic process were misplaced. Instead of moving forward with the process the administration embarked on return to the drawing boards reminiscent to the Somali Saying “Raad arooryo dib looma raaco” meaning that while you are expected to move forward It’s not wise to trace back to your earlier footprints”
Different political analyst on this sees it differently. Some sees it as an intention of diverting attention and crippling of the opposition. Others will tell you that the administration was just fulfilling its campaign promise. All in all it all comes down to as a misplaced priority because with the time in hand and the resources involved, the current administration would have done this unrecognized fragile entity great service, by continuing the democratization process by letting the existing political parties be, and engage them in local and parliamentary elections while reforming the electoral laws and set-up a system that will allow for he house of elders to be elected. More so it would have been even be better if from the get go the administration would have started a process to fully reform and draft a complete and meaningful constitution for the nation. A fully ratified constitution with inputs from the entire stake holders
The current political state
Despite the many achievements in different areas the current administration failed in its responsibilities of fairly facilitating and mobilization in the strengthening of democratic system of balanced government power. In this I mean the genuine empowerment of both houses and the judiciary in such a manner that that they can independently function not as an organization of formalities but as a validated equal branch with equity of power exertion. It’s only when there is a balanced equity in government powers that we can expect a fair systematic social-political and economic development.
As we speak the elected parliament has overstayed its mandate, there is none to hold them accountable neither do they have the clout to legislate as the political parties that propelled them to power are themselves are either in limbo or obsolete. At the moment the speaker of the parliament has founded new political party, while the rest of the parliamentarians’ remains up for grabs as this new political cycle evolves. In hindsight the current affairs of the governments is solely dictated by the executive branch.
On the other hand with the house of elders (Guurti) you will find that, while most of the members have been assimilated into the partisan politics, many are not there with the initial tribal mandate but have ascended to power in the form of inheritance. Call it complicated hybrid of a monarchy and democracy. (The house of demonarchy).
With all due respect I will conclude by emphasizing that the hard won liberty and the tolerated democratic process should not be taken for granted. The need to tone down the executive powers has never been more vital as it becomes clear that all we aspire for is to ascend as the ruling executive and the spoils belongs to whoever that wins just as was once stated by the then senator Sen. William Marcy in the US. Jacksonian era “to the Victor belong the spoils” Having said that I hope that the current president and respected statesman and an admired member of the founding fathers, must have a positive plan and a democratic vision in store, for the future of this historic nation to be.
Abdirahman Dhunjoog (USA)
B.Sc. Human Resource Development (University of Minnesota)
Masters in Public Administration (Hamline University)