Power Struggles In Somalia


Three furled Somali flags played backdrop to a dispassionate Hassan Ali Khaire, as he resigned from his post as Prime Minister on Saturday the 25th of July. Not that he had much choice.

Mr Khaire had been under pressure since a majority of Somali MPs (170 of 178) voted to oust him in a vote of no confidence, just days before. He dismissed their vote as ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, but said he would resign ‘in the interest of the nation’.

For their part, MPs criticise Mr Khaire’s failure to replace Somalia’s complex electoral system. Under the current system, clan elders elect delegates, who then elect MPs and Senators, who then elect the President. Mr Khaire promised to democratise this system by introducing ‘one-person, one-vote’ in time for elections in 2021, but he has not followed up with a ‘clear plan’ according to parliamentary speaker Mohamed Mursal.

Transforming Somalia’s elections would be a major milestone. The country last held democratic elections in 1969, so to hold them now would require deploying 5000+ polling stations, as well as biometric registration technology – two challenges exacerbated by the country’s shallow fiscal reserves. Given this, Mr Khaire’s lack of progress is unsurprising.

Also unsurprising is the decision of MPs to oust him. Somalia’s constitution makes it very easy to give the Prime Minister the boot. Per Article 69, all it takes to enact a vote of no confidence is for 50% of the federal parliament (+1 if the number of members is even) to vote against the prime minister by show of hands. Nevertheless, Mr Khaire’s resignation has sent shockwaves within the borders of Somalia and without. An early poll by Universal Somali TV indicates that most Somalis oppose the ousting (73% of 54K respondents). In attempting to quell this disapproval, the government has imposed an unprecedented national shutdown of internet services. 70% of the country’s internet users cannot get online.

Abroad, The US embassy condemned President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s endorsement of the ousting: ‘if any individual or institution seeks to dominate the others, it undermines the stability of the entire nation.’ Similarly, EU representatives labelled the vote a ‘serious disrespect for the constitutional foundations of Somalia’.

To understand the implications of this for Somalia, it’s worth returning to Mr Khaire’s resignation video. He – the politician – is centre stage for 6 minutes, while the many flags – the country – are merely figments of the background. This embodies the nation’s political scene.

While the President, the Prime Minister and the NIEC (National Independent Electoral Commission) continue to point fingers, Somalians continue to miss out. They face a life expectancy nearly 10 years lower than their neighbours in Ethiopia; their country has a woeful track record of free press and is one of few still unable to record its GDP. Democratic elections would surely be a step towards remedying this. But instead of tackling the problem, the hands of power just keep pointing fingers.