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Somalia’s New President Now Faces 3 Big Challenges
Africa

Somalia’s New President Now Faces 3 Big Challenges

After a lengthy electoral process, Somalia got a new president last month, former prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi  Mohamed. Incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded defeat in the Feb. 8 election when he failed to get the plurality of votes needed to win the second round of voting. This was only the second smooth transfer of power since Somalia’s first direct elections in 1960 — incumbent President Aden Abdulle Osman graciously ceded the 1967 election to Abdirashid Ali Shermarke.Somalia’s democratic trailblazing in Africa came to a halt in 1969, however, when General Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in a coup. Siad Barre ruled the country until his ouster in 1991, when a civil war ensued. A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) created in 2004 made several attempts to hold elections, but these efforts failed due to security concerns. Once the TFG’s mandate expired in 2012, Somalia embarked on the roadmap laid out by the United Nations, which included drafting a provisional constitution and selecting a new parliament that would then elect a president. This process guided Mohamud’s election in 2012. Like the 2012 elections, the 2017 elections were indirect — parliament, not citizens, elected the president. The main reason for holding indirect elections was concern in the central government and the international community about the terrorist group al-Shabab, which had controlled large swaths of Somalia since 2007. Aided by African Union (AU) forces, the central government regained control over much of the insurgent-held territory. But Mohamud’s administration failed to create voter districts or establish an electoral commission, as stipulated by the provisional constitution. This groundwork was necessary for direct elections — one person, one vote. Now that the 2017 elections have taken place, here are three challenges the new government will face:1) Ethnic power-sharing is an ongoing process.The method for filling seats in Somalia’s parliament was hotly debated. In the 2012 election, parliament seats relied on a “4.5 Formula” — a power-sharing agreement among Somalia’s major clans. The formula allocates one in four seats to each of the major clans in Somalia, and half of one seat to minority clans. The clan-based quota was used to appoint the 275 seats of the Lower House of parliament: 61 seats for the four major clans, and the minority clans shared the remaining 31. In 2012, 135 Somali elders, nominated by the main clan families, elected parliament.This same formula applied in 2017, however, the number of delegates was expanded to thwart vote buying, which tainted the 2012 election. Source: Washington Post