Somaliland needs a credible process for registering political parties
After a decade, the Somaliland electorate is heading to the polls to elect candidates for the local elections. Nine political parties would contest for the upcoming election; however, the process the un-elected registration commission selected the political parties was flaw, questionable and un-democratic, and it could undermine our fledgling democracy.
In addition, the three existing political parties lack transparency, accountability, and internal democracy in their party structure. There are no laws governing political parties’ registration and financing. There are also no term limit for the party leaders and transparency over the fund raising and the financial contributions the parties receive.
Nevertheless, the political parties would be responsible, in the coming election, to determine who will represent them in elections. The process parties use to list their candidates is also very corrupt, secretive, and with little input from the voters. Only candidates the party bosses approve would appear on the ballot. Consequently, party leaders push candidates who are less qualified into candidacy over legitimately qualified person who might serve the community interest better.
The split of UCID party, the unfolding power struggle over the leadership of UDUB party, and the recent heavy-handed expulsion of Mr. Abdurrahman Abdulkader, one of the top leaders of Kulmiye party, from the leadership, were symptoms of a more systematic mess in our political parties.
Last year, in a press conference, the former vice chairman of the Kulimiye offered a candid suggestion and advice to President Silanyo who is also the Kulmiye leader: how to heal and bring together his own constituents and the Kulmiye party.
Mr. Abdulkader is the type of individuals our country needs now. He deserved and qualified to hold a cabinet post on a Kulmiye administration, but that never materialized. Because of the Dahabshil Group faction of the Kulmiye party, who transformed the true platform of the party—to promote the interest and the needs of Somaliland citizens, into a system of political patronage. The narrow-minded group who is running the country and the party could not tolerate his constructive criticism for a better country; instead decided to humiliate him in a heavy-handed manner.
If his allege conduct was so severe, why it took so long for Kulimye leadership to take any action against Mr. Abdulkader. Instead of police treating him like an intruder and dragging him on the floor, it would have been more appropriate for the party leadership , to let him appear in a close hearing of some type of disciplinary or administrative procedure, and give him a chance to defend himself against the allegations of misconduct.
Unfortunately, the video of the Somaliland police beating a man who suffered severe back injuries due to the motor vehicular accident, while he was welcoming candidate Silanyo, in 2009, went viral over the internet across the region, and it is likely that type of image might tarnish Somaliland’s fledgling democracy. Some voters might eventually turn away from the Kulmiye party because it has no tolerance for dissent voices.
In order to promote fairness, to protect the rights of every citizen to run for an office, and to offer voters more choices —a more transparent process —which is democratic and inclusive is needed to select the political parties, party leadership, and candidates . I do not believe opening more political would change the systematic failures of current political system unless changes are made.
We should have term limit for the party leaders, transparency over the fund-raising and the financial contributions the parties receive. For example, If the term limit would have existed on the by laws of the UCID party; the dispute over the leadership would not have gone all the way to the court.
The current political process is restricting well-organized parties and their candidates to compete in the polls. The incumbent Presidents regularly use a vague and flaw party registration laws to keep any opposition off the ballots. Candidate Silanyo complained during the presidential election the make up and the lack of impartiality of the electoral commission. Ironically, the president Silanyo is using the same tactic his predecessors used —-to deny the ballots any group that could mount effective opposition to his failed leadership. The commission certifying the parties is not independent and unbiased. For example— who are they to tell, UDHIS is not a political party— while at the same time recognizing Nasiye or Rays as legitimate party?
A faction of mainly former members of Somali National Movement that was dissatisfied the way Kulmiye party managed the nomination process for candidate Silanyo formed UDHIS. They got the best organization—offices, members and platform. Yet the so-called registration commission failed to certify UDHIS for political reason because simply Silanyo administration does not like any credible opposition.
As we know, there is no active political opposition group in the country. The speaker of the legislature, Mr. Cirro, has made the parliament a rubber stamp legislature body. Whatever legislative agenda, the special interest groups demand such as communications, banking, opening new dialogue with a government of Somalia that does not even exist, was passed thoughtlessly. As far as the legislature, maybe, a few handful legislators are aware the state of the country.
Just look closely for the speaker, not only he made the legislative body insignificant, but he also abandoned his full time job—managing the legislature. Instead, he is very busy organizing his own new political party “Waddani” and he spent most of the time travelling overseas and fundraising activities. I think it is people’s interest for the speaker to resign from the post and to concentrate more on for his political party.
Fixing the political quandary, we are in, is not going to be easy. However, we should rather make the process to register political parties simpler and not cumbersome, and the electoral commission was well suited for certifying the political parties.
The electoral commission could use total voters who voted last presidential election in its voter registration database to gauge the strength and the support each contesting party had. I think over half million people voted last election. For example, the commission would set a guideline or threshold — a party would be recognized as a legitimate one if: there are at least 5,000 registered voters, is being affiliated with the party. In addition, the party should have regional offices and platform. This method for deciding the certification of party although is not perfect, but at least, it is much fairer than the mess we got now..
The blatant disqualification by the registration commission the parties such as UDHIS, to contest the election, demonstrates the urgent need to change how the voters elect their leaders. Dismantling the dysfunctional three –party monopoly political system would give the electorate more choices, offer thousands of voters who support other parties and independent candidates an opportunity effectively to participate in the political process. We need to fix the problem. Otherwise, the current political system would completely disfranchise qualified candidates.
* Allah bless Somaliland*
”Long live Somaliland”
Co-founder Growth and Development Club of Somaliland
Lewis Center, Ohio