5/22/2024
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First 100 Days Presents Small Window of Opportunity to Make Popular Vote a Reality

Sunday May 29, 2022
By Aman Obsiye


"Acting in his capacity as Provisional President of the Republic." These are the opening words of the 1960 provisional constitution for the Somali Republic.

The first year of Somali independence was marked by a period of provisional governance. The provisional government had a one-year mandate, and its main goal was to host a national referendum on the provisional constitution. Somalia's constitutional referendum was held on June 20, 1961, and it was considered a test of confidence for the new country and its leaders. On July 6, 1961, after three ballots, Somalia's national assembly voted for Aden Adde Osman to become the country's president. This ushered in a new constitutional order for Somalis.  

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Fast forward to present-day Somalia and you will notice that it is governed by a provisional constitution, again. The current provisional era has existed for a decade, coming into effect in September 2012. Somalia's new government must prioritize constitutional revision and national referendum. The only way Somalia will transition from a fragile state to a fully functioning state is to usher in a new, permanent, constitutional order.

First 100 Days

The First 100 Days of a president's term signals the new government's policy priorities and is often accompanied by a bold plan of action for achieving the administration's agenda. Somalia's new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, bears a tremendous responsibility. 

Somalis expect him to deliver one-person-one-vote elections in 2026, and he has a small window of opportunity to achieve this goal.

In his first hundred days, president Mohamud must begin the work of constitutional revision and national referendum. This will lay the foundation for organizing one-person-one-vote elections for the 12th Federal Parliament of Somalia and the 2026 presidential election. To complete this agenda, the President must create three task forces:

  1. Legislative Task Force
  2. Executive Task Force
  3. Popular Vote Task Force


The Legislative Task Force will consist of ten parliamentarians from each Federal Member State (FMS), five regional and five federal. Five MPs from each regional FMS parliament and five MPs from each FMS in the Federal Parliament. For example, South West State will have five MPs from their regional parliament based in Baidoa and five MPs representing them in the Federal Parliament based in Mogadishu. The Legislative Task Force will have the responsibility of designing a new permanent constitution, and then finalizing it at the Federal Constitutional Convention.

Somalia must iron out the wrinkles of her style of federalism. The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the various FMS governments have yet to negotiate what governing powers are delegated to the federal government and what powers are reserved for state governments.

What differentiates federalism from other forms of government is the dual-sovereign notion of "vertical separation of powers." This notion disseminates governing powers between two main entities, the federal government and state governments (i.e. the Federal Member States). Each entity may not encroach upon the other entity's governing powers.

In the United States, the federal government controls foreign affairs, national defense and monetary policy, while the state governments control public health, safety (e.g. policing) and educational affairs. The dual-sovereign concept encompasses two parallel entities, federal and state, governing in unison.

Somalia's vertical separation of powers must be codified. This can only be done through a national dialogue between Somalia's various FMS stakeholders. After finalizing the new constitution, the Legislative Task Force will present it to their respective constituencies and lobby them to approve the new social contract in an upcoming national referendum.

The Executive Task Force will consist of the President of Somalia and the presidents of the Federal Member States. This task force will have the responsibility of developing a voter registry and organizing polling stations in preparation for the national referendum.  

To complete these goals, the Executive Task Force will need to organize census operations in each respective FMS. This will not be an easy task. The first census was conducted during the Trusteeship Era in preparation for the 1954 elections, in which thirty-five towns and villages partook. 

The last successful census was conducted in 1975.  

Somalia is long overdue for a census. A census will help establish a more just political system, one based on proportional representation and not the 4.5 clan formula. 

A census is necessary to develop a voter registry and establish polling stations. Furthermore, census operations assist governments in identifying where to direct resources for public services. To be frank, census data is vital for providing good governance to citizens.

The Popular Vote Task Force will have the responsibility for organizing one-person-one-vote elections for both the 12th Federal Parliament of Somalia and the 2026 presidential election. This task force will be like the Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT), which was tasked with organizing the 2022 election.

The voter registry and polling stations for the upcoming constitutional referendum will be the foundation for a national electoral registry (with added participants and polling stations). The Popular Vote Task Force will also be assigned the responsibility of providing biometric identification for all those on the voter registry. 


Small Window of Opportunity

President Mohamud has a small window of opportunity to make good on his promise to deliver one-person-one-vote elections in 2026. 

His chances of success will be exponentially higher if he adopts a bold action plan in his First 100 Days. The policy milestones President Mohamud accomplishes within his first one hundred days will signal to the Somali people and the international community if his government is serious about popular elections. 

President Mohamud's first term was marked by institutionalism and state-building; four FMS came to fruition, and the Upper House of the Federal Parliament was established. In his second term, and within his first one hundred days, President Mohamud must develop a policy framework that will accomplish the goals of constitutional revision and national referendum.  

The Legislative, Executive, and Popular Vote Task Forces, will allow for electoral democracy to be gradually reintroduced to Somalia via a hybrid top-down/bottom-up approach. It took the first Somali government one year (July 1960 – June 1961) to finalize its constitution and host a national referendum. Undoubtedly, the present-day government can muster the courage to end this decade-long provisional era and usher in a new constitutional order for Somalia.

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Aman Obsiye is an attorney based in Minneapolis, MN. He received his Juris Doctor and Master of Public Policy degrees from the University of Minnesota.



 





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