Somalia is currently in the middle of legislative and presidential elections. As one-person one-vote was not considered feasible, 135 elders have selected 14,025 delegates as electors. Groups of 51 delegates vote for one seat in the legislature, which represents one clan or sub-clan.
Clan allegiances are central to Somali identity and they have been politically manipulated in Somalia since the regime of Siad Barre. Clan violence accounts for 24% of all violent events, and is exacerbated by conflict over resources, which have recently been severely affected by drought.
The legislature positions are allocated according to clan, according to the ‘4.5 formula’: representatives from each of the country’s four major clans take 80% of seats, with minority clans taking the remaining 20%. 30% of seats are reserved for women, though this quota has not been met in any federal state. Once the legislature is elected, it will elect the speaker and president on 28 December, unless the process is delayed for a fourth time.
Seats are not only allocated according to clan, but also divided across six federal states plus Banadir (Mogadishu). The states of Puntland, Somaliland, and Jubbaland were established before elections in 2012, Galmudug and Southwest states were formed during the federalism process for the 2016 elections, in 2013 and 2014, and Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions were merged in 2016. The boundaries of these states are a source of conflict. Fighting in Galkayo over the establishment of Galmudug state displaced has 90,000 people in 2016.
Hiiraan elders refuse to acknowledge the existence of Hir-Shabelle state and have boycotted the electoral process. The selection of Jowhar, Middle Shabelle, as capital of Hir-Shabelle and an imbalance of representation and power between Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle has created conflict.
Many of the 18 presidential candidates are reportedly manipulating the electoral process. The incumbent president and prime minister are seen as frontrunners for the presidency, but mainly because they have exploited the advantage of power to ensure the election of allies into the legislature. The president of Somalia has been accused of manipulating the creation of states and the elections to secure support in Hir-Shabelle. Presidential interference in the election has also been recorded in Puntland and Galmudug. In Southwest and Jubbaland, state presidents have manipulated the electoral process. Vote-buying, detention and manipulation of electors, casting of multiple votes, electoral violence, and fake candidates have been reported throughout the electoral process. Clientelism and personal gain repeatedly override actual clan representation, with many representatives not having visited the region they are representing.
The Somaliland government is boycotting the process as it claims to be independent. However, there are representatives of Somaliland in both the lower and upper house. These representatives are allies of the prime minister or president, and include the current deputy prime minister, Mohamed Omar Arte. There are not enough electors from Somaliland due to the boycott, which has resulted in some Somaliland electors voting multiple times.
Inter-clan conflict along federal state lines
The boycotting of the electoral process by Hiiraan elders as well as manipulation to skew power to Middle Shabelle and loyalists to the president will likely result in conflict within Hir-Shabelle state. Violence is possible over misrepresentation of Somaliland. Puntland and Somaliland’s competing claims to Sool and Sanaag regions have increased tensions, which are likely to result in violence.
Localised clan conflict
Either the president or prime minister will likely take the presidency. Power-sharing agreements between clans for the positions of prime minister and president means violence is unlikely. However, the electoral process is likely to create and aggravate local grievances. People who feel mis- or under-represented due to manipulation are likely to use clan allegiances to sow conflict. In places where tensions are already high, a shift in power could lead to the breakdown of fragile truces.
Lack of response to drought
The ongoing drought has worsened over Somalia, especially in south-central Somalia and northeastern Puntland, yet the focus on the elections has limited the response. Further inter-clan conflict resulting from the elections, as well as the re-organisation of power following the elections will reduce national response capacity even more.
Indiscriminate violence is highly likely, as it is frequent during clan conflict in Somalia. Secondary displacement is likely, increasing vulnerability to protection risks.
Schools will be closed due to conflict. Schools have been used as shelters for those displaced by conflict.
Elections and conflict related to the electoral process contributes to the inability to respond to the effects of drought, further exacerbating nutrition levels. Nutrition levels are critical in more than half the populations surveyed in Somalia.
Inter-clan fighting often provokes large numbers of displaced, in the tens of thousands. Conflict over boundaries increases the likelihood of widespread displacement. Secondary displacement is highly likely.
The displaced will need shelter.