With its security-sealed plastic boxes and cardboard polling booths, Somalia’s election –- under way since last month and still ongoing –- has the trappings of democracy, but few of the functions. Last week in the western city of Baidoa, 51 handpicked representatives of the Reer Aw Hassan clan took an hour to vote unanimously for Abdiweli Ibrahim Ali Sheikh Mudey, a current minister and the only candidate to show up on the day. Among Mudey’s backers were 15 enthusiastic female voters. “We selected the most beautiful man!” cheered one as Mudey smiled in his dark aviator sunglasses, a garland of purple tinsel round his neck. Just 14,025 of the Somalia’s perhaps 12 million citizens are voting for 275 MPs, who will join 54 appointed senators in voting for a new president, in an election described as “limited”.
“It is a unique process and must be analysed within its uniqueness,” said Deqa Yasin, the deputy chair of the national election body, the Federal Indirect Election Implementation Team. The voting process has been drawn-out and deadlines repeatedly missed, and it is unclear when the presidential stage will take place.
Somalis were promised a one-person, one-vote election. But political infighting, backsliding and prevarication, combined with insecurity mainly due to Shabaab militants who control swathes of countryside and strike at will in Mogadishu and other towns, meant that plan was ditched last year. Instead a complicated hotchpotch is in place.
It falls far short of a democratic election, but promises to be better than the last vote in 2012, when 135 clan elders nominated all the MPs.