The 2016 Somali Elections and youth participation


The 2016 presidential and lower and upper house MP elections are scheduled to happen between October 10th and November 30th of this year, making it one of the most popular discussion topics among youth.

The youth believe that this election cycle will have more legitimacy in contrast to the elections of 2012 where only 135 clan elders chose the 275 Somali MPs.

This time around 14,025 citizens will elect the 275 lower house MPs, which means every MP will be elected by 51 constituency members from his respective clan. The 51 constituency members are entitled to elect only the lower house MPs while the upper house MPs will be selected by the regional states of Somalia.

The lower house voting will take place between October 23 and November 10, and on November 30 the new parliament will elect the new president.

Therefore, the minimum quota that the youth will get in the 51 constituencies members that will elect every MP is 10 for every 51 constituencies. Many youths are discussing how they can influence the 41 remaining constituencies to combat against election bribes and how to elect the right MPs.

Makka Al-Mukarama Hotel is one of the most popular hotels in Mogadishu. At Makka, politicians, merchants, elites, and other luminary people always gather to discuss a variety of issues. One afternoon, I eavesdropped on a conversation behind me between, a number of youths. They were sitting under a decorated shelter in Hotel Makka.

I hastened towards them and asked if I could sit with them. The youth were discussing the 2016 Somali elections and the impact of youth participation. I probed them on the possibility of the potential for youth impact, keeping in mind the challenge of clan-based selections and the political dynasty of our country.

One of the youth said in a confident voice “It’s clear that we can’t make a huge change now, but we can at least shake the shoulders of the candidates although the youth are among the representatives that will elect the lower house MPs”, Another good-looking youth said, “The imminent threat that MPs are feeling is youth participation. Youth can’t be bribed and will elect the candidate they want regardless kinship, relatives, and friends”.

In this year’s election, there are a number of youths who have dared to challenge seasoned politicians who came to the office for the nomination of their respective clan elders. The most important government positions like the director general, vice secretary of ministries, and all civil servants are employed by their clan elders, and these elders are the people who have the last resort of their employments in the government departments.

The concern of the youth is that biased recruited persons are not willing to share their experiences and do not the help the youth get jobs. Walking through Mogadishu’s downtown streets you see the billboard adverts of the youth for their candidacy. Online, social media is the most popular platform used by the youth to promote their candidacy.
The youth in Somalia complain about one of the highest unemployment rates in the world as every year the universities produce new graduates. The youth have hope for election; it will be the first election they experience in their lives.

Young people don’t want to waste this opportunity and they see it as a golden moment to change the system of government, which only employs senior bureaucrats who don’t like to share their experience with juniors.

These days the recreational areas and the social amenities which are quietly increasing in Mogadishu have become gathering places for university graduates who are eager to take part in the recovery of their war-ravaged country and are interested in having a tangible influence on the country’s politics. Finally, the youth are looking forward to these elections and are waiting to see the theory of change they made during the elections unfold.

Elmi H Samatar