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Friday, February 20, 2015

Waddani Position paper on Somaliland elections

(Medeshi)- The Somaliland Presidency should Bear the Responsibility and Negative Consequences of the Delay of the Elections

With this Position Paper, WADDANI party endeavours to make it clear to the Somaliland people and to the international partners that pro-election stakeholders have worked hard for the last two years, to achieve the goal of holding 26 June, 2015 elections on time, however,the present Government has consistently undermined these efforts.


Introduction

The Somaliland national election stakeholders lead by the three political parties and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) took the decision in early-2013, almost two years ahead of time, to start preparing for the President’s term end elections to take place on time on June 2015 and also convinced the SDSC that they are united and serious about that goal. At the national level, the most important stakeholder is the Government which is expected to take the political decision and to facilitate the activities of all other stakeholders to hold a free and fair election.

If all the above stakeholders fully cooperated to prepare for the June 2015 Somaliland election, there is no doubt that they would achieve the goal of holding it on time on 26 June 2015. However, it was public knowledge in Somaliland, even at that early stage of the process, that the Government has taken a contrary political decision, which is to get a two-year extension, before holding any election and therefore to fail the elections technically, by killing time towards its preparation.

Initially they thought if the Government neglects its role to move the process of preparing for the elections, then the political parties will start agitating when it is too late as used to happen in President Rayale’s time. However, this time, the pro-election stakeholder did not wait for the Government to move the preparation process, but they themselves took action, mobilized themselves under the banner of late NEC and in close cooperation with the SDSC, and took charge to move forward the election preparation process step by step. The Government, represented by the Ministry of Interior, obstructed that process on every step taken.Therefore, if the Somaliland elections do not happenon time, on 26 June 2015, it is not because of a technical delay, but because of a conscious political decision from thepresent regime with the aim to get an “extension” of two or more years to be provided by the Guurti (House of Elders).

The Struggle to Achieve the Goal, to hold the 26 June, 2015 Election on Time.

Let us explore the main events which show how the Government implemented its policy of delaying the June 2015 election and how it undermined the efforts of pro-election stakeholder who were working hard for the last two years to achieve that goal. The thrust of the struggle between the pro-election stakeholders and the obstructionistefforts of the Government through the Ministry of Interior was on three main junctures of the election preparation process:

i) The preparation of the Voter Registration process;

ii) The passing of necessary laws in the two Houses of Parliament.

iii) The process of instating the new National Electoral Commission.

i) The Voter Registration as the First Battle Ground

How did the Government undermine the Voter Registration Process? The pro-election national stakeholders worked through a consensus process spearheaded by NEC and the national political parties to decide that a new Voter Registration is key to a free and fair election in Somaliland. They had in mind the close-call toan all-out election conflict resulting from the 2012 Local Council’s election, which was held without a Voter Registration,as well as the existing Voter Registration Law which obligated that no more elections will be held without a Voter Registration after this Local Council Election. Therefore after a series of meetings among the national stakeholders often facilitated by APD, a consensus agreement was reached a letter jointly signed by NEC, all three Political Parties, and with some persuasion by the new Minister of Interior. The letter was sent to the Donor community represented by the SDSC. Subsequent to further clarification meetings, the SDSC supported the process.

However, shortly afterwards, the new Minister of Interior has changed his positiontowards the Voter Registration,obviously after getting acquainted with the palace policyof no-election. The new Minister started insisting on using the Civil Registration for election purposes to get the voter list. We also need to be reminded here that the President, in his 2013 Annual Speech, stated that the Government will use the Civil Registration to prepare for the elections.

Why was is not feasible to use the Civil Registration for preparing the voter list for the June 2015 election?Irrespective of the exiting legal obligation, the overriding reason was the limitation of available time to the election due date. The Civil Registration will take four to six years.On the contrary, the Voter Registration can be accomplished within the time period for June 2015 election; to be precise, it was planned to be complete by 31st December, 2015, a schedule that was seriously undermined by the Government.

At that Juncture of the election preparation process, it became necessary that the national stakeholders had to make a choice of which is the most efficient route to the elections: the Civil Registration route preferred by the Government or the Voter Registration route preferred by all other stakeholders.After intense discussions a third route was chosen to separate the two registration processes. The Voter Registration is directly related to the election preparation and that why all stakeholders should cooperate on its implementation to hold the elections on time. The Civil Registration is for collecting data for citizenship ID and municipal information. Therefore it was agreed upon that the systems are run separately: and that NEC manages the Voter Registration and the Ministry of Interior the Civil Registration.

The Dual Track Process

The process of separate paths came to be known as the “Dual Track Process” and all key stakeholders signed an agreement letter to that effect: the Ministry of Interior, the NEC, and the three National Political Parties. Subsequently also, after a delay of two months,the President signed an endorsement letter addressed to the Co-chairs of the SDSC – the EU Ambassador and US deputy Ambassador in Nairobi. The President’s letter sent to these dignitariesoutlined in detail the separation of the functions of the two registration processes and confirmed the commitment of the Government to provide full cooperation to the Voter Registration and to the election process and to pay its share of the funds.

What followed was quite an embarrassment to the Somaliland Government: an immediate reversal of the Ministry of Interior’s position, when a high level SDSC Mission came to participate on a NEC organized meeting for all stakeholders to adopt a well-researched biometric system (iris scanning) for the Voter Registration. The Minister of Interior made clear to the Mission that the Government will use the Civil Registration for the voter list preparation. All other stakeholders adopted the biometric system for the voter Registration and were still upholding the “Dual Track Agreement”.However, the Mission left without any clarification on the reversal of Government position from the Presidency. The confusion that ensued delayed the process of Voter Registration at least three months, when at last the Minister accepted to sign a final agreement which endorsed the choice of biometric for the Voter Registration, but with a commitment to provide a citizenship ID for all by December 31st 2014, which was also a ploy to complicate the implementation of the Voter Registration and hence delay the 26 June, 2015.

The Minister of Interior continued his path of a Civil Registration geared towards the election, a breach of the “Dual-Track” Agreement. The Ministry redesigned the Civil Registration systemto mimic the upcoming Voter Registration by trying to use it for something outside its function. It boughta sub-standard biometric equipment and confined the registrationto only the voting age section of the population. Why is the Ministry going to all that trouble was twofold, first to confuse the people about the “Dual Track Process” and second, to spend a hefty sum of money allocated from the national coffers and also usurped from the Local Governments’ supplementary budgets. However the ultimateaim is to fulfill the President’s policy of delaying the June 2015 election.

Revisiting the existing Voter Registration Law

On the other hand, the pro-election stakeholders were pushing forwardthe Voter Registration process. The NEC commissioned knowledgeable lawyers in the auspices of APD to study the existing Voter Registration law and to draft an amendment relevant to the upcoming Voter Registration. To make it an inclusive and participatory process, the APD invited also the three national Political Parties, members of the civil society and members of the Legislature.However the invited representatives from the Government chose not to attend. A draft amendment law of very high quality was produced and NEC submitted it to the President to follow the procedure to pass it to the House of Representatives.

The President did not send the draft Amendment law to the Legislature but to his Ministry of Interior which after two months delay produced a mediocre draft law amalgamating the two registration systems into one document. The President then sent it with a signed degree this draft renamed document, to be called the “Law of Civil and Voter Registration”. With that, the President openly reneged his endorsementand the agreement signed by his minister on the “Dual Track Process” – separation of the Civil and Voter and disregarded his commitments to both the national stakeholders and the international partner community. Why should the President put himself and his Government’s credibility in such awkward situation? He is fulfilling the standing policy of his Government and circles of influence to delay the elections due in June 2015 and therefore get an extension.

The Battle in the Parliament on Passing Laws Required for the Election Process

Here the Kulmiye party abandoned his lukewarm cooperation with the pro-election stakeholders. The Presidency and Kumiye MPs widened the battle from onlyblocking the election lawsto pass, but casted their net wider to remove the Speaker, whom they saw as an impediment to their strategy for “extension” – The regime launched what came to be known as “Operation Goat Milk” and put all its energy to change the internal House of Representative regulations, specifically the 2/3rd majority clause to depose the Speaker and his Deputies standing since the Somaliland Parliament was established in 1994. A fierce battle ensued which was not confined to the House members, but was seen as the Executive Branch using state resources to undermine the independence of the legislative Branch. The result of that battle was that the Somaliland society became so polarized that the Guurti had to intervene to mediate the opposing sides of the House – the Presidency/Kulmiye on one side and the Opposition/Speaker on the other.

The Guurti delivered a compromise ruling: a) giving the regime half of what it wanted and that is to change the 2/3rd majority Clause of internal House Regulation to a simple majority clause. That could mean removing the Speaker and his Deputies with a simple majority of 42 Votes instead of 55 as it stood for the last two decades. However, it ruled also that b) that the current Speaker cannot be voted out with that simple majority ruling until the next election. This ruling, which was accepted by both sides, was both a win-win situation and at the same time, a lose-lose situation.Although the Presidency failed to remove the Speaker, it gained several months of delay time from the election schedule.

After putting the above episode behind it, the House of Representatives approved the “Registration Law” to the surprise of everybody with an overwhelming majority on 30 September 2014. In the same sitting, the House also solved one of the potential stumbling blocks of the election preparation process – the house passed a resolution which combined the Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

The Presidency’s inner circle was not happy about that law going through because, a Clause important for their strategy, was allegedly changed from the way it was introduced into the draft when the Ministry of Interior was tampering with the original consensus version submitted by the NEC. That is the “Idle six-month Clause”: the Final Voter Registration list should be published 6 months before the day of the Election.

To rationalize that clause, the pro-election stakeholders supported the “within” six months idea– that will allow holding the election if the preparations are complete before the six months elapsed. That is why the Presidency staged the failed “Parliament occupation coup”. The aim was a new trial to remove the Speaker by force so that the Kulmiye regime controls all three highest positions of the country and with that remove any semblance of remaining checks and balances. The ferocity and adventurist nature of the move against the Parliament shows how determined the Presidency is to stick to power without elections. It also shows that for this regime, the “idle six- months”are an important pillar of its delay tactics formula of the 26 June 2015 election.

Two more battles to fight in the Houses of Parliament:

a) There is only one legislation which is pending from the check list of laws from the election preparation process; that is the Parliamentary Election Law No. 20-2/2005. It can become a very controversial law as far as the distribution of seats to the regions is concerned. But according to the ruling of the Supreme Court in 2005, Voter Registration (VR) has to be made before the next parliamentary election. Hopefully, VR will start in April 2015. To hold the elections on time, after the completion of the VR, the same law can be used in this parliamentary election by amending sunset clause No. 12. If the Kulmiye Government continues its strategy in blocking election and legislation processeswhich can facilitate the 26 June 2015 election, it has to be ready for the result of de-legitimizing not only the Legislature but also its Presidency. The new Government can hold a national process to review regional seats distribution and possibly address the overdue reform to our electoral laws. With that we can overcome the possibility of holding the 26 June, 2015 election to become hostage to this issue.

b) The other remaining battle is with the Guurti on the use of Article 83 (5), this time. If the President seeks and extension from Guurti, after deliberately failing to hold the 26 June, 2015 election and without reaching an agreement with the opposition parties on the way forward, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, all WADDANI MPS and MP supporters from other parties, will call for the disbanding of Parliament and the Executive. The whole Government will lose its legitimacy by 1st July 2015, the end of this Presidency.

iii. Government Obstruction of the Work of the Outgoing NEC and Delaying Appointment and Approval of the new Group.

The above process also offered the present regime another opportunity for them to chipping time from the election preparation process. Our international partners have created an opportunity for the outgoing NEC to go to a week’s retreat in Addis Ababa to use the time remaining from their tenure to do some of the key planning work in preparing for the upcoming election. That was also an opportunity to make use of their expertise in election planning and to mitigate the burden of new NEC in that area. It was expected to prepare a draft election roadmap and a plan to go out to the regions to complete required field work for both the Voter Registration and the elections. That effort could have significantly reduced the required election preparation time to hold 26 June, 2015 on time. However, that is completely contrary to Presidency’sstrategy to delay the elections on “technical grounds”. So the Presidencybarred the outgoing NEC from doing any work to that effect and forced it to sit idle until their time lapses. And so it happened, with the nation losing a valuable time and experience.

An even more blatant delay tactic was to drag the appointment process of the new NEC for good two months. The President wrote to the Opposition parties to bring their appointments within a week. Both opposition parties brought it within that timeframe. However, the President himself took two months to complete his appointments. It was not an accident, it was also intentional to frustrate the international partners who were waiting patiently for the appointment of new NEC to move forward the Voter Registration contracting process. When at last the list of the appointees was completed and the President was satisfied with both his appointments and that of the opposition, the approval process of the House of Representatives had to start.

Since the House was on recess, the Speaker called the MPS back to fulfill this important national duty. On the day of voting, the KulmiyeMPs, taking their cue from the Presidency, abstained from appearing in the House to deny it a quorum and it was so conspicuous that they not only succeeded to frustrate the new appointees, who were hoping to go to work, but they were responsible for the unnecessary delay time adding to their inventory of killing time from the June 2015 election preparations. The delay tactics of the regime on NEC approval process did not stop there; even swearing of the new team, their internal election of a Chair and a Deputy and the handover process all became occasions of election delay time earning from the side of the regime.

III. Conclusion and Actions

It is now clear that the Somaliland Government under its elected President has taken a political decision not to hold the elections, which are dueon 26 June, 2015, so that he can get an “extension” on technical grounds. The implementation strategy as detailed above was being directed by the Presidency with the Ministry of Interior being used as its face. The Government has therefore, undermined one of the key responsibilities it held for the Somaliland people, to uphold the law of the country to ensure elections are held on time.

On the other hand, the WADDANI party in close cooperation with other pro-election stakeholders worked hard to follow the law of the country to prepare for the elections due on 26 June 2015. These stakeholders started to organize themselves, when they realized from the President’s Annual Speech in January 2013, the strategy of this Government to delay the elections on technical grounds. Therefore, the pro-election stakeholders focussed on denying the Government to delay the election on technical reasons, and have set themselves the goal of completing all required preparations for the June 2015 election.

They followed a well-thought of plan built on expert studies, hard work from key stakeholders, as well as a strategy of consensus building from both the national and international stakeholders. The goal of holding the elections on time was identified as clearly achievable, if all stakeholders cooperated including of course the Government.

Having realized that a credible Voter Registration is critical for a free, fair and peaceful election, and more so, to avoid the violent experience of the 2012 local election, the pro-election front agreed to adopt the “Dual Track process” – to separate the Voter Registration which can be held in time for the 2015 election and the Civil Registration which can continue for 4-6 years and to let each be managed by its mandated organization: NEC manages the Voter Registration in collaboration with the pro-election stakeholders and the Ministry of Interior manages the Civil Registration.

Today, after two years of the pro-election stakeholders trying to achieve the goal of holding elections on time, and the Presidency and its Ministry of Interior undermining that legal objective, it is clear that the Government has succeeded to seriously undermine to hold the elections on time.And that will not happen because of technical reasons, but because of a conscious political decision by the Presidency to delay the Election. This decision not to hold election on 26 June 2015 undermines the democratic process, upon which his legitimacy as a President was based, and is a threat to the peace and stability that the Somaliland people built and cherish. The consequence could be:

An undesirable experience of political discord and return to the 2008 – 2009 turmoil.

A new danger to the unity of the Somaliland on top of the situation already prevailing in the East and West sides of the country; and diminished trust of the people to the highest organs of the Government and hence weakened capacity of Somaliland to face the challenges of this unstable region.

A source of doubts on the international partners for Somaliland Government’s commitment to the democratic process.

If the Somaliland 26 June, 2105 election is delayed, it may spillover to Somalia’s Federal Governments elections in 2016 and the consequence could not favourable to Somaliland’s future.

WHAT IS THE POSITION OF WADDANI?

WADDANI is a major pro-election stakeholder?

WADDANI will work with the pro-election stakeholders to pursue and not to be swayed from the goal to hold the combined Presidential and Parliamentary elections on the earliest possible time. And to hold the President accountable for the delay of the elections and for any illegitimate extension of his term.

WADDANI calls for the Somaliland people not to accept that the Presidencyusurps itsdemocratic right to elect and change or reinstate theleaders through the ballot box and not through Guurti sponsored extensions.

WDDANI calls for the National Electoral Commission to come up with the long-awaited timeline for the election without further delay.

WDDANI calls for the Guurti to refrain from becoming a House which exists only for covering up Presidents’ neglect of their duties to hold elections on time.

WADDANI commends and thanks the international partners for keeping abreast of developments on Somaliland elections, for committing the lion’s share of the costs of the Voter Registration and the elections and for providing valuable technical support.

Furthermore, WADDANI calls on the international partners to support Somaliland people to hold accountable any election key actor leader from the Government,the Political parties, the Legislator or from any other relevant entity, who willfully undermines the democratic process of Somaliland and therefore creates destabilization conditions and endangers the lives and livelihoods of the Somaliland people, as a spoiler.

If the Government and the Presidency fails to hold elections on their constitutional time, the Waddani party will not recognize it as a legitimate Government including the House of representatives. Therefore, WADDANI will pursue the formation of a caretaker Government whose mandate is solely to hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.

Waddani/Media/QN