Somalia leaders fail to reach deal on elections, says govt minister

MOGADISHU (AFP) – Emergency talks between Somalia’s divided political leaders ended without agreement on how to proceed with elections, a government minister has announced just days before the president’s mandate expires.

Somalia is likely to miss tomorrow’s deadline to choose a new president after days of negotiations between the central government and federal states collapsed on Friday without resolution over the disputed electoral process.

The impasse threatens a constitutional crisis in the fragile Horn of Africa nation that is already confronting a violent insurgency, a locust invasion and serious food shortages.

“The government offered to negotiate and settle the disputed issues, but some brothers failed to understand, and refused to resolve the issues,” Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe told reporters in the capital Mogadishu on Friday.

“The government has shown flexibility to compromise, gentleness and readiness to negotiate, but some leaders tried to exploit that openness to seek more. That will not work.”

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Somalia’s five regional leaders reached an agreement on September 17 that paved the way for indirect parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021.

But that deal fell apart as disagreements over the multi-stage process escalated between the president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, and some regional rivals.

The United Nations (UN) warned that Somalia risked entering uncharted territory should tomorrow’s deadline lapse without a concrete consensus about a way forward.

Somalia set itself the goal of holding its first one-person, one-vote ballot since 1969, a pursuit described by the UN as a “historic milestone” on the country’s path to full democratisation and peace after decades of war and violent instability.

But that was abandoned for a complex indirect system similar to past elections, where special delegates selected by Somalia’s myriad clans pick lawmakers for the upper and lower houses of Parliament, who in turn choose the president.

Farmajo’s political opponents accused the central government in Mogadishu of an unwillingness to compromise with regional leaders and engage in good faith to reach common ground on the fraught process.