13 February 2017

Somalia: How Digital MPs and Social Media Changed the Course of Somali Elections

Photo: Radio Dalsan
Somalis celebrate after presidential election results.
analysis

The hashtag #Farmaajoiigeeya has been trending in Somalia and the diaspora ever since a video showing a Jowhar farmer Abdullahi Osman demanding to see the new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo.

He finally met the President after Somalis on Social media pushed for Farmaajo to meet his biggest fan. It's the latest example of how powerful social media has become in Somalia. A simple poor quality video shot in Jowhar captured the hearts of a whole nation.

And it's the same story in the Presidential elections. The Social media played a great role in deciding who was going to lead this country in the next five year.

Unlike the previous Parliaments the 10th Parliament is made up of mainly new faces with 45% of the lawmakers being the youth. They are more exposed and tech savvy compared to the elderly Mps in the past and have been using using social media platforms to monitor and gauge the people they represent.

These younger parliamentarians decision on who to vote for was in was informed on the mood of the Shacaab Somali the ordinary citizen on the ground.

A number of Mps conducted polls on social media before making a decision on who among the 24 presidential candidates to vote.

Among the Mps who conducted polls were Muna Kay the young Somali Fashion designer from the US . Majority of her followers voted for Farmaajo . She later posted on her Facebook account thanking her fellow Mps for voting according to the wishes of the majority and not driven by selfish motives.

MP Abdi Shire Jama went on social media and asked his followers who they want as President. When he got 7000 plus comments backing a Farmaajo presidency he announced to his followers that he had made a decision to vote for Farmaajo.

"Social media Somali version is the was one of the most important leaps forward over the week of the country presidential election. It provided unity self expression and promoted mutual understanding between Somali youth" a Somali social and political commentator said in a post.

"It enabled rapid formation of networks and demonstrated common interest across the people of Somalia and their elected Mps their ideas and values like never before" he added.

Although most of the pre election analysis had not favoured a Farmaajo win but agreed that he was the most popular candidate with public , social media is said to have had a role in changing the decision of many Mps.

Social media became one of the deciding factors in the 2017 elections beside clan allegiance and financial influence.

As one of the leading radio stations in Somalia Radio Dalsan conducted a poll on twitter Where it asked who the best candidate was and 75% voted for Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo.

Those results were echoed in last week Presidential election an indicator of how the social media shaped the course of the 2017 elections.

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