Somalia’s disputed elections teach an important lesson about the country’s democratic trajectory.

Somalia’s elections usually run behind schedule. This is a proven fact. These elections do not even include the universal suffrage promised by previous presidents, including the present one, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. They are also not the ones the Somali people anticipated would finally allow them to bypass the elite clan selection process for their so-called representatives. However, Somalis are really devoted to democracy, as demonstrated before by the frequently delayed but successful holding of indirect elections in which all prior incumbents relinquished office peacefully. Indeed, the only predictable and acceptable aspect of Somali political discourse has been the political shift brought about by some type of referendum every four years or so. Despite widespread claims of vote fraud in Somalia, the fact that no incumbent has returned to power thus far is a natural political karma testimonial to the promiscuous nature of contemporary global democratic politics.

Parliamentary and presidential elections must be held within the four-year electoral mandate of the government, according to the interim Somali constitution. However, this parliament has agreed to a technical extension in which all federal institutions and players, including MPs and the president, will continue in office until their successors are sworn in following the postponed elections. Although there is no set time limit for this (the sooner, the better), this has always been the practice. Although this indefinite technical extension is unique, it is arguably a rational and practical alternative at a time of worldwide pandemic, growing instability, and financial restriction, all of which are having a negative impact on the Somali people and economy.

All Somali political stakeholders will profit from the anticipated predictability and order that a potential election deal may and will bring to Somalia and its international allies who have stayed patient thus far. Somalia’s significant international partners, who conduct shuttle, telephone, and Zoom statesmanship within the country, have repeatedly expressed their concerns in a coordinated manner, most recently at the recent United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday, 12 March 2021, where they agreed that Somalia’s elections must be held “without further delay.” While this strong cohesive position and rhetoric should revitalize the electoral process, a collaborative and executable election agreement must materialize in the light of the country’s current health, humanitarian, and security crises. Indeed, determining a course of action may reveal to be the simplest aspect of this Somalia election story.

Somalia truly is a one-of-a-kind country. No country in the world has suffered as severely from state breakdown as Somalia has. Men and women were murdered, others were maimed, public and private institutions were destroyed, families were split up and scattered throughout the globe, allowing warlords and radicals to fill the power vacuum created by the absence of a functioning state. The resulting anguish, suffering, and anger are still visible on buildings and, in some cases, on the faces of individuals. Suspicion continues to remain in the hearts and minds of people. Despite these obstacles, the Somali people aspire for normalcy. What is normative behavior? It is a government that functions efficiently, the provision of essential public services, and opportunities for an entire generation brought up in violence and uncertainty.

Despite the outpouring of rage, political posturing, conflicts, and stress, no Somali wants to return to Somalia’s tragic past. The Somali people have now encountered, felt, and tasted some semblance of normalcy, and political elites will be unable to fool them again into self-destruction. This is what should reassure all concerned stakeholders that elections will take place in Somalia and that the Somali people will continue to advance toward a more peaceful and democratic future regardless of whether their political leaders agree. There is simply no other course of action available. The election in Somalia has captivated the world’s attention. It has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster political soap opera, with individuals in power and those seeking it traveling from all over the world to vie for presidential authority selected by a select few politicians.

Local news stories are reinforced by worldwide media interest, which has elevated Somalia’s electoral issues to an international level. For some, it is ideological, while for others, it is an experiment to see if Somalia can navigate its way out of a difficult scenario that has previously thrown stronger nations into civil war. Those who are familiar with Somalia, on the other hand, will not be alarmed, since Somalis have always muddled their way to some form of accord in order to survive another day. The heart of this arrangement is usually some type of election in which power is either transferred or retained by the incumbent, which has never happened in history.

Democracies are challenging. Even wealthy western nations, which are supposed to be the bulwarks of the world liberal order, have recently demonstrated the democratic process’s fragility. The rise of populism and the response to the Covid-19 outbreak have exposed the cracks in our collective knowledge of politics and democracy especially the state of democracy in the wider nation of Somalia.

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