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Somali President says elections to take place on time, rules out term extension

Somali President Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo has backed a cabinet resolution to have elections take place on time as stipulated in the constitution.

Somali President Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo has backed a cabinet resolution to have elections take place on time as stipulated in the constitution.

In a statement issued hours after a cabinet meeting Thursday in Mogadishu, Farmajo also ruled out an extension of his term in office.

“President Farmajo… stressed the need to avoid term extension and ensure the country holds an election as stipulated in the constitution and the electoral law, which must take place in an environment of peace, consultation and reconciliation,” his office said in the statement.

The Horn of Africa nation was due to hold parliamentary elections in October and presidential polls in February 2021.

However, with consultations ongoing on the elections and on amendments to the constitution, it has not been established whether the scheduled elections will be delayed or not.

Farmajo, who has been accused by the opposition and federal member states of seeking to delay polls, expressed commitment to improving the electoral process. “The president emphasized the importance of strengthening democracy in the country and advancing the electoral process, while maintaining the ability of the Somali people,” the statement said.

The statement came a few hours after Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire assured the public the country will go to the polls as planned.

“Elections must take place as scheduled,” Khaire said in a statement. “We should not be working with the mindset that there will be term extension since extension could lead to political, security and constitutional crisis.”

The statements came as the country’s opposition and federal leaders kicked off a meeting in Galmudug, warning the government against delaying the 2020/2021 elections in order to extend their mandate.

The latest development comes after the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) said on June 27 it will not be possible to hold elections this year due to technical and logistical issues, including the security situation in the country.

NIEC chairperson Halima Yarey said 13 more months is needed to prepare a credible poll where Somalis can take part in a “one person, one vote” election for the first time since 1969. “The commission needs to register citizens, register political parties and the candidates,” she told parliament in Mogadishu on June 27.

Yarey said the earliest Somalia can go to the polls is March 2021 if parliament approves the manual voter registration option which she said could take only nine months, as opposed to biometric registration which is costly in terms of acquisition and training of staff.

However, the country’s opposition alliance (FNP) on June 28 said the electoral commission has lost public and political stakeholders’ trust and called for the entire commission to resign.

FNP said they will not accept even a day of extension of the election date and blamed the NIEC, saying it’s blended with the leadership of the country.

Analysts say the upcoming universal vote is critical for the sake of entrenching the federal system of governance, which is required to appease communities and regions claiming systematic exclusion and marginalization for decades. The Horn of Africa nation last held “one-person, one-vote” elections in March 1969 when the government was overthrown in a bloodless military coup.

Parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2016 and early 2017 were conducted through a system of indirect suffrage.

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