Will Somalia election benefit Shabab?


Wednesday’s presidential vote is part of the rebuilding effort in Somalia, which was shattered by more than two decades of conflict and where clan loyalties still tend to trump policy in politics, Reuters reports.

But several analysts and some Western diplomats say the election has turned out to be a milestone of corruption, one of the most fraudulent political events in Somalia’s history — and that’s saying something, given that the country is ranked by Transparency International as the most corrupt on earth, The New York Times adds:

Somali investigators estimate that at least $20 million has feverishly changed hands during parliamentary elections that will culminate in the selection of the president on Wednesday. Outside forces like Turkey, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are widely believed to have been buying off presidential candidates to land juicy business deals, spread a harsh version of Islam or spy on American forces.

The entire process has been so bad, several analysts said, that the Shabab militant group, one of the deadliest Islamist organizations in the world, isn’t even trying to derail the vote because the corruption free-for-all almost makes the militants look upstanding by comparison.

“This election has been awesome for the Shabab (right),” said Mohamed Mubarak, who runs a Somali anti-corruption organization, Marqaati, which means “witness.” “The government loses even more legitimacy and the Shabab has a chance to buy a seat!”

In a report on Tuesday, Marqaati said the elections “were rife with corruption“.

Matt Bryden, director of Sahan Research and an expert on Somali politics, doesn’t believe the election process has been free and fair, he said it is better than the alternative, AP adds.

“There have been credible, and I think well-substantiated, allegations of fraud, intimidation, abuse, but essentially it is still a step forward,” Bryden said. “The alternative was probably not to have a transition at all, in which case Somalia would have gone back to fragmentation, so it’s not pretty, but it is a step in the right direction and it’s probably the best we could hope for at this stage.”

All 23 candidates are men after the only declared female candidates dropped out. And each one has paid the $30,000 (28,000-euro) registration fee although few have any serious chance of winning, AFP adds.

Considered a failed state by some analysts, Somalia has faced systemic challenges to citizen engagement in inclusive, democratic political processes, notes the International Republican Institute*, which recently resumed programming in the country after a two-year hiatus. The establishment of credible democratic elections and systems has been obstructed by decades of civil war, terrorism, as well as elite and clan-based governance systems, a weak central government and the absence of civic participation.

*A core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

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