Legitimizing the Status Quo in Puntland is Not Democratization
By Mohamed Ismail Mohamed (Siibad)
The Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) was sworn in less than a year after the current administration took office. The objective was to lead Puntland from the despotism of the past 22 years to a free and fair election as stipulated by the Constitution of Puntland. According to Article 114 (1) of the Constitution TPEC is mandated to execute the election process according to the Constitution. Unfortunately, TPEC has sidetracked the Constitutional roadmap for the elections. This Article makes a clarion call to all concerned to see that TPEC does not squander this rare opportunity.
The deviation is that the Commission is executing separate elections for three distinct districts and plans to register the voters for these districts by June 2021, while the rest of Puntland waits. This is a clear violation of the the roadmap. To begin with, the elections should be universal since the outcome of the first district council elections determines which political associations will form the official parties, local governments and will contest the parliamentary elections at a later date. Over and above that violation, TPEC has not even contemplated population census, which is the first step of a free and fair election.
In addition, the process of democratization is trilateral one where all sides should cooperate in order to achieve smooth transition from the current autocratic system to a democratic one. Alongside TPEC are the government and the political associations. The government provides finance, security, executes demarcation of the district boarders and the census, among other things. The political associations are the stakeholders who are interested in the success of the process. They are the foot soldiers who have interest in educating the public to understand the democratization process, which is new to Puntland.
Besides, the political associations have direct contact with the voters as they continuously solicit and have interest in voter participation of the process. Accordingly, for the success of the process, TPEC should empower and provide assistance to the associations so that they act as a conduit to educate the public. The Commission has responsibility to help provide the civic education required so that residents learn their rights and responsibilities ahead of any election, which hitherto has not happened.
Regrettably, the Commission treats the political associations not as a pillar in the democratization process, but rather, as a bystander who is bound to abide by the decisions of the Commission and the government. Thus, change in TPEC’s attitude is warranted in order to lead Puntland to a democratic election. Here are some Articles of the Constitution that TPEC should comply with before any mobilization for credible elections:
- Article 6 (1): There will be a census every ten years for the population of Puntland.
- Article 44 (4): Voting will be universal, that everybody has the right to participate, …
- Article 44 (5): … The number of seats that a region will have in the House of Representatives and that of the members of District Councils will depend at any time on the number of people who live in that region or district.
- Article 123 (2): … The number of every District Council members depends on the number of its residents and area.
- Article 46(3): The three Political Associations that win the largest number of votes from the first competition of the District Councils will form the three official parties.
Needless to say, holding an election without adhering to the above Articles of the Constitution is misleading at face value and perjury as a failure to uphold the constitution oath.
Hence, it is not out of line to remind and advice TPEC that holding a separate election is contrary to the the Constitution and the will of the people of Puntland. As noted above, the Constitution mandates that the winners of the largest number of votes from the first competition of the District Councilswill form the official parties and the local governments. As such, the extraordinary election for three distinct districts lacks any objective manner. Consequently, before the public concludes that TPEC’s election detour is a farce aimed to legitimize the status quo in Puntland by engineering a second term for the incumbent administration, the Commission must secure the implementation of the following:
- Census is Constitutional and Common Sense. Every vote casted by a representative or a council member carries the same weight as that of the other. Therefore, they must represent an equal number of people; otherwise, it will not be democratic. Moreover, the services provided by the state such as education, health, security, etc. largely depend on the number of people in the district. Therefore, without census what will be the basis of budgeting for the provision of services to the district, or the weight of the vote of a representative? Perhaps one’s pedigree or the ancestral history.
- Isolated Election is Illegal Constitutionally and Negates Common Sense. The constitution stipulates that the first district council election winners will become the ‘parties’ and will form the local governments. Therefore, the universality of the first elections is Constitutional and common sense.
- Constitutional Court is Must. According to the Constitution, the Commission is the highest elections institution of the country and its decisions cannot be annulled by any other institution except the Constitutional Court – Article 112 (2). It is not secret that there is neither Constitutional Court in Puntland nor an independent and qualified court that can adjudicate against the government as was evidenced recently by the illegal expelling of the eight MPs without recourse. So, who is going to stop the Commission if it makes errors in judgment or intentionally favors to a party?
- Impartiality is a Virtue Expected of the Commission. This can only happen if the Commission finds its way back to the Constitutional roadmap of the democratization process. Consequently, the Commission ought to renounce the illegal detours that are wasting the invaluable time and resources of the State and start preparing Puntland the above steps for a free and fair election after 22 years of nepotism.
Hon. Mohamed Ismail Mohamed (Siibad)
Hon. Mohamed Ismail Mohamed (Siibad) is an author, academic and a former Somali diplomat and has held different duties in Puntland State of Somalia. Currently, he is the Chairman of Mustaqbal Political Association and MP of Puntland State of Somalia.
 Refer to document issued by the office of the Puntland Human Rights Defender.
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