By Ali Mohamed
Lewis Center, Ohio—-The most important Somaliland presidential election will take place in less than a year. But other political parties or independent candidates will not be able to access the ballot because of Somaliland’s three- party monopoly system.
However, according to Somaliland’s Constitution on Article 82, the person wishing to become Somaliland’s President must fulfill the following requirements: one must be 40 years of age, a Somaliland citizen, a Muslim, physically and mentally fit to fulfill his duties, and his spouse must be Muslim.
The Somaliland Constitution is explicit, to be elected as president, you do not have to be a member or belong to any of the three Somaliland’s political parties, then why is there no independent candidates running for the office?
Today, in Somaliland, the democratic institutions are very weak. Add to that, there is no independent judiciary that could follow and interpret the constitution, if an independent candidates were to mount a legal challenge to the three party monopoly system.
Moreover, the prospect of independent candidates competing in presidential election is slim. Because even well qualified independent candidates with resources and supporters would face a hurdle from the incumbent president or the party bosses of the clan based three party monopoly system. As they would use Somaliland’s three party laws to deny independent candidates or other parties to appear at any ballots just to cement their political monopoly. Thus, disfranchising thousands of voters, limit voter choice, and deny voters the opportunity to choose the candidates of their choice.
And the process the parties use to select presidential nominees is non transparent, undemocratic and with little input from the voters. The party leader usually sails the nomination process without even a token contest. For example, in the 2010 Kulmiye party presidential nomination, then candidate Silanyo, who does not like any opposition, won the party nomination unopposed. Now, Silanyo secured his party nomination without a challenge. After the un-elected house of elders “Guurti”, Somaliland’s supreme rulers, rules in favor of Silanyo’s re-election campaign over the dispute of the 2015 Kulmiye party presidential nomination.
Unfortunately, today, Somaliland’s three-party political system is rotten, from the local government to the executive branch level; it is not working for ordinary people. Because of the selfish and corrupt politicians, who are exploiting the susceptibility of the Somaliland people to the Clan and the special taste they have for it.
In fact, the three Somaliland political parties are not functioning as national parties. Most of them do not have an agenda to tackle the enormous challenges Somaliland is facing. Instead, these parties have become a vehicle for the party leaders and their cronies not only to gain power, but to also undermine democratic process.
For example, instead of President Silanyo building democratic institutions, after he won his previous election, he disregarded the constitution and our system of check and balance, since he made the legislative and judiciary branches an extension of his administration.
Of course, the speaker of parliament, Mr. Abdurrahman Erro, a buffoon, is also a part of the problem. The speaker receives close to $1 million for his office to write laws and oversight the executive branch. But instead of representing the public interest: challenging and checking the power abuses and the excess of the Silanyo administration; he is complicit or kept a blind eye on all Silanyo’s bad governance.
For some Somalilanders, democracy is holding or winning elections, but for a majority it is more than voting. For a democratic process to work, it requires: elected politicians to follow the constitution, a strong check and balance system to crack down corruption, a functioning independent judiciary, and the respect the rule of law.
I understand Somaliland’s democracy is fragile and needs more time to grow. I hope that things move in the right direction.
But it is likely that the three party monopoly system to produce a highly flawed and untested person or a failed corrupt incumbent president—as the next president of Somaliland—unless a well qualified independent candidate emerges with an agenda to save Somaliland from an abyss.
Keeping the status quo is not an option. The Somaliland people should have to debate and start a national dialogue on how to make changes to the flawed system parties use to select presidential nominees in order to open the political process.
Dismantling the dysfunctional three –party monopoly political system would give the electorate more choices, offer thousands of voters who support other parties or candidates an opportunity effectively to participate in the polls.
We must abolish the three-party political system, because the Somaliland people deserve a better system than the mess of the Clan based three party political system—which is generating repeatedly the same selfish and corrupt politicians.
In 2010, then candidate Silanyo stated, “Siad Barre was overthrown not because of his Clan, but because he disregarded the rule of law, violated individual rights and abused the public’s trust….”And now an elected leader has put the Somaliland people in the same predicament. Silanyo is on the path of leaving his legacy as the man who squandered the freedom and the organic peace the Somaliland people had fought for the last two decades.