Somalia: Farmaajo, Opposition Lock Horns Over Extension of Stay in Office

Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo (file photo).

Somalia is in a state of political and constitutional limbo as various stakeholders interpret the failure to hold elections differently.

One hand are those who believe that the parliamentary resolution passed last September to allow the president, the Senate and the Lower House to stay in office if the country fails to hold an election was right, while on the other are those who say that extension of the term is illegal; that a mere parliamentary resolution is not enough.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo's four-year term expired on February 8 but he has called a Federal and State Level Summit on February 15 in Garowe, Puntland to break the impasse.

President Farmaajo insists that his government is ready to implement the September 17, 2020 agreement with the federal member states but opposition members such Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the leader of Wadajir Party, accuse him of being an obstacle to the elections and demanded the establishment of Traditional National Council to oversee the elections.

Analysts point out that President Farmaajo is taking comfort in the fact that the term of the former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was extended from 2016 to 2017.

Unchartered waters

Omar Mahmood, the International Crisis Group senior analyst for Somalia, said Somalia is swimming in unchartered waters because while it has had electoral extensions in the past, they were preceded by a consensus plan from political stakeholders before the expiry of the term.

"Farmaajo has confidence due to the parliamentary legislation and the international community that appears to encourage his stay.

But at the end of the day, the impasse must be resolved internally, so they will have to compromise on all sides for anything to work," said Mr Mahmood.

He noted that those opposed to Farmaajo might think they have more leverage after February 8, but at the same time Farmaajo is continuing to assert his rule and the international community so far has entertained that.

Edward Ned Price, the spokesman for the US State Department, said that Washington is concerned about the absence of an election implementation agreement in Somalia, though it is up to the Somalis to resolve the issue.

"Partial, parallel, or alternative election processes, including prolonged interim governing arrangements, would increase prospects for instability and be a major setback for Somalia," he said in a statement released on February 9.

The Somalia Election Law that Farmaajo signed in February 2020, provides that the elections could be delayed, "If serious circumstances arise -- including widespread insecurity, natural disasters, diseases, droughts and technical problems."

But the period for an extension was left at the discretion of the executive. Somalia was supposed to hold parliamentary elections in early December but they aborted after the Jubbaland President Sheikh Muhammed Islam insisted the federal government withdraw its troops from the Gedo region.

Later, the opposition started disputing the composition of the Electoral Committee -- formed after the September 2020 election agreement -- that is dominated by Farmaajo sympathisers.

Farhan Isak Yusuf, a researcher with the Somalia Public Agenda think tank, says that the leaders at the federal level and state level must not rule out dialogue.

Compromise

"They must compromise to save vulnerable institutions; to save the country from plunging into election-related violence. To achieve this, they must consider national interest interests instead of personal interests," said Mr Yusuf.

Abdallah Ibrahim, director, the East Africa Centre for Research and Strategic Studies said that the current circumstances are not clear who will rule the country, but the problem of Somalia is the inability to complete the constitution-making process.

"While the Somalia Provisional Constitution provides that the parliamentary speaker takes over if the president dies or is incapacitated, there is no provision for who takes over if the term of the president expires without political agreements," said Mr Ibrahim.

Mr Mahmood said the challenge is that those parties designing and implementing the electoral rules are the same ones who will compete in them.

"Even if there is an agreement next week, the implementation phase could break down again given the lack of trust amongst the parties. That is the worrying development, that there is no clear way to break this cycle right now," he said.

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