Garowe, Puntland, Somalia –
In a significant step towards advancing democracy in Puntland, the regional parliament has approved a momentous constitutional amendment. This change paves the way for the president, vice president, and parliament members to be directly elected by the public. The adjustment expands the scope of democratic participation within the region and allows the nine existing political associations to participate in the upcoming elections, further broadening the political landscape.
Of the 66 members of parliament (MPs), 60 were present for this historic vote. The proposal secured a clear majority, with 54 MPs voting in favour and only six opposing the change. There were no abstaining votes. The amendment required a two-thirds majority, or at least 44 votes, a requirement comfortably surpassed by the voting results.
This change bears far-reaching implications. By shifting towards a system of direct public elections, Puntland is diverging from the current political norms in south and central Somalia, regions yet to conduct elections at any level. This decision underscores Puntland’s commitment to fostering a more participatory political environment.
Despite attempts by certain political factions to impede the process, including efforts to incite violence, the democratic procedure remained resilient. The constitutional change met all necessary requirements and is now definitive, not subject to further negotiations or compromise.
Puntland has already demonstrated progress towards such democratization. Local elections were successfully conducted in 30 districts on May 25, 2023, highlighting the region’s steady advancement towards grassroots political engagement.
A thorny road towards democracy
The discussion surrounding the opening of the Constitution for potential amendments has witnessed dramatic side events. In June, the opposition Aran Jaan militia clashed with Puntland’s security forces and urged traditional elders and politicians to prevent constitutional amendments. However, the group has been widely condemned for resorting to violence and eventually had to retreat.
In July, the former President of Puntland, Abdiweli Ali Gaas, and former Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, came to Garowe to engage in negotiations aimed at promoting peace and stability in the region. The former Somali statesmen presented a set of recommendations for Puntland, supporting the region’s democratic transformation but warning against initiating amendments or alterations to the Constitution.
Example to follow in other parts of Somalia
The constitutional amendment stands as a symbol of the region’s continued commitment to democratization, setting a sturdy precedent contrasting the political stagnation in other parts of Somalia. The stage is set for Puntland, and the future political trajectory of the region, shaped by this change, remains to be seen.