A UN Security Council delegation visited Somalia on Thursday to insist the August elections proceed as planned, warning that political wrangling could derail a process intended to signal the country’s growing stability.
With Somalia’s parliament so far failing to back the government’s proposed election plan, the 16-person Security Council team urged an end to the deadlock.
“We are very concerned by anyone trying to unpick part of the deal, because very soon the whole thing could unravel,” said Britain s UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
Somalia was supposed to hold a “one person, one vote” national election in 2016 but late last year – with Al-Qaeda-inspired insecurity still rife and political squabbling endemic – the government admitted it would be impossible.
It instead opted for a system of clan-appointed electoral colleges choosing MPs for the lower house, with an upper house of regional representatives.
Some parliamentarians, eager to stay in office as long as possible, are blocking the bill to legalise the electoral model.
“We urge the parliament as a matter of extreme urgency to endorse that model,” said Rycroft.
The last election in 2012 involved clan elders gathering in the capital to select MPs who would back their interests.
Diplomats say the current plan is broader and better, and would be a stepping stone towards a genuinely democratic elections in 2020.
“It’s nowhere near one person, one vote but it is a bridge towards that, and hopefully they can get there in one more go in 2020,” said Rycroft.
“We understand there are challenges but the most important thing is to move forward,” said Egypt’s ambassador Ambassador Abdellatif Aboulatta.
Security fears meant the UN diplomats did not leave Mogadishu’s fortified airport compound, so Somali officials went to them instead.
“We are very much happy, very much optimistic and a little bit tired,” said Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud before assuring the Security Council that the elections would be held in August.
Despite the promises, diplomats privately talk of likely delays, with some conceding a vote may not happen until the end of the year.
“The risk with delay is that you end up with a downward spiral,” warned Rycroft. “There has been a lot of progress but it’s fragile, and it is reversible.”
Shortly after the diplomats left, at least one person was killed in a suicide bombing at a cafe in Mogadishu.