Protecting progress that has already been made in Somalia’s post-conflict transition should be the main priority of the upcoming electoral process. Significantly, Somalis have already achieved agreement on the main aspects of the process through intensive dialogue, which represents a major hurdle that has been negotiated. As well as this, the elections can also help to further expand participation and representation in Somalia’s political structures, which would be another step forward—albeit small—in Somalia’s post-conflict trajectory.
These successes are not yet guaranteed. The process comes at the tail-end of a period of heightened political tensions in Somalia, between the FGS and some federal member states, notably Jubaland and Puntland, as well as between the FGS and opposition politicians. The agreement struck in September is fragile, and, in the absence of trust, the contentious issues outlined above may derail the process. There is a high chance that the elections become protracted and contested, increasing the likelihood that the result is disputed.
These are worst-case scenarios and are avoidable if the spirit of consensus reached in September amongst the Somali political leadership can be revitalized and deepened. Constant political dialogue between Somali leaders from different sides of the spectrum on the issues outlined here is essential to build trust, relationships and channels of communication that can be the basis for a credible process, and mediation of political differences. This might take place in the form of a monthly meeting of political leaders whilst the election campaign is underway, as well as regular meetings or conference calls between technical advisors from the different groups.