Somalia’s parliamentary elections have been subject to vote-buying and intimidation, leaving them without credibility, according to the country’s top auditor.
The Horn of Africa country, which is emerging from more than two decades of conflict and is still blighted by an Islamist insurgency, is currently holding limited parliamentary and presidential elections.
In the parliamentary elections, an electorate of just under 14,000 delegates—who have been chosen by 135 clan elders—will vote for 275 members of the lower house of parliament. Regional parliaments are electing the 54-member upper house of parliament, which did not exist before the current elections.
In an interview with Voice of America’s Somali service, Nur Jimale Farah, the country’s auditor general, said that vote-buying was common practice in the country. “Some votes were bought with $5,000, some with $10,000, and some with $20,000 or $30,000,” said Farah, who added that his office had recorded two seats costing their respective winners $1.3 million each.
Farah added that candidates in some regions, including the port city of Kismayo and the southwestern city of Baidoa, had been prevented from entering election halls, resulting in the other candidate being elected. Some delegates had also been threatened and so stayed away from voting, Farah said.
Newsweek contacted the National Independent Electoral Commission in Somalia for a comment but received no immediate reply.
The United Nations envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating, said earlier in November that “vote buying and bribes is a reality” but that the electoral process was still “infinitely more robust” than when Somalia last held elections in 2012.
The elections are viewed as an important step towards full democracy in Somalia, which did not have a stable government for 20 years before the current administration was formed in 2012. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is running for re-election, told Newsweek that he hoped the one person, one vote system would be implemented in Somalia in time for elections in 2020.
Somalia still faces manifold challenges, the highest of which is the security situation. Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group, has upped its attacks in 2016 and pledged to disrupt the elections. The country is also dealing with an increased threat from cells of fighters loyal to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).
More than 20,000 African Union peacekeepers are deployed in Somalia, although several countries—including Ethiopia and Uganda—have either pulled out or indicated that they intend to withdraw from the country soon. Any new government will also have to rebuild Somalia’s fragile economy, which has been hampered by a lack of infrastructure and security issues.