Today’s selection of the new president by the Somali parliament reflects the internationally-enabled failures of the past two administrations in Mogadishu. Despite committing to hold direct elections in the country, the past two administrations have chosen to have a narrow electorate to enable them to buy votes and rig elections.
The election cycle of 2016/17 was fraught with vote-buying and candidates choosing their own electors. The results were predictable for the individuals that rigged the elections, encouraging them and others to emulate them in the election cycle of 2021/22. This cycle was even more corrupt and less open, with almost all seats closed for selected candidates.
Without doubt, the 2021/22 parliamentary elections yielded the desired outcomes for those who rigged the elections. They succeeded in electing virtually all their desired candidates to parliament. The only lesson here is that it is politically advantageous to rig elections and that there is no accountability for doing so. Rational political actors will calculate that they would have to be even more vicious in their vote rigging and buying in the next election cycle.
As the Somali public does not pay the bulk of the funds that run the federal government, its leaders have no respect for them or their priorities. The government has more respect and is more responsive to the international community that pays its bills and gives it physical protection. It is therefore unlikely that universal suffrage will ever be achieved in Somalia in the foreseeable future, as long as the international partners do not tie their support to democratisation and good governance.
Continuing in this path will not only progressively degrade public confidence in the government but will also fail to achieve the goals of the government’s international backers. Security will further worsen as security forces are used for political reasons; immigration will pick up as the country is mismanaged without accountability; and piracy may see a comeback as economic opportunities decline. Of more interest to the international partners, terrorist groups will continue expanding in the country and using it as a base of operations to destabilise the region and beyond.
Therefore, the international support for Somalia needs to focus on democratisation and good governance in Somalia, not for the interests of the Somali people, but for theirs. Remaining on this path will only waste their taxpayers’ money while attaining negligible effects in support of their respective national objectives.