The United Nations office in Somalia has called on the country's leaders to reach consensus on a way forward on holding a universal vote as early as March 2021.
In a statement issued in Mogadishu on Sunday, the UN lauded the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) chairperson Halima Yarey for presenting electoral options to realize direct voting for Somalis.
"Now that NIEC chairperson has presented electoral options, the UN in Somalia urges broad consultation among Somali political leaders to reach consensus on a way forward," said the UN.
It said the planned three-day meeting of the national government and the Federal Member States which is slated for early July is a good next step for the leaders to agree on the electoral process.
The UN statement comes after the poll body said on Saturday it will not be possible to hold elections this year due to technical and logistical issues including the security situation in the country.
Halima Yarey, chairperson of NIEC said the poll body requires 13 more months to prepare a credible poll where Somalis will have an opportunity to take part in 'one person, one vote' election for the first time since 1969.
"The commission needs to register citizens, register political parties and the candidates," Yarey told parliament in Mogadishu. She said the earliest Somalia can go to the polls is March 2021 if Parliament approves the manual voter registration option which she said could take only nine months as opposed to biometric registration which is costly in terms of acquisition and training of staff.
Somalia is preparing for universal suffrage elections, which will be the first of its kind after more than two decades since the outbreak of the civil war that followed the collapse of the government in 1992. However, the country's opposition alliance (FNP) on Sunday said the electoral commission has lost public and political stakeholders' trust and called for the entire commission to resign.
FNP said they will not accept even a day of extension of the election date and blamed the NIEC, saying it's blended with the leadership of the country.
The electoral commission defended itself, saying it's an impartial institution and urged all stakeholders to stand with the commission to make this historic election a reality.
The NIEC chairperson vowed that the commission which was established in 2015 under the provisional constitution will continue to be guided by the constitution and all other legal frameworks.
"We are an impartial institution and we will continue to stay on course. Our mission is to deliver a transparent and inclusive electoral process embedded with integrity," Yarey said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The envisaged election is considered crucial because it would entrench political inclusivity, which is part of Somalia's roadmap to democracy. The electoral law envisages one-person-one-vote denying elders and select individuals the power to decide the country's leadership as they have before.
Analysts say the holding of the 2020 universal vote is considered critical for the sake of entrenching the federal system of governance, which is required to appease communities and regions claiming systematic exclusion and marginalization for decades.
According to the UN, Somalia last held one-person, one-vote elections in March 1969 when the government was overthrown in a bloodless military coup. Parliamentary and presidential elections took place in late 2016 and early 2017 through a system of indirect suffrage.