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EXPLAINER: Controversial law review in Puntland and opposition’s grievances

Storyline:National News

By T. Roble

GOOBJOOG NEWS|GAROWE: A bill to amend the constitution in Puntland received a majority endorsement on Tuesday paving the way for changes of the state supreme law ahead of the January presidential elections amid stiff resistance from the opposition.

Out of the 60 MPs present, 54 voted for proposed changes while only six filed a no-vote clearing the way for significant changes in the manner of elections and representation. Puntland parliament has 66 MPs.

At least 30 people were killed in late June after opposition and government forces clashed in the capital Garowe as parliament sat to debate the proposed changes. President Abdullahi Deni’s term ends on January 8, 2024.

What are the proposed changes?

Sponsors of the Bill have picked two key articles for review-article 44 and 46 of the state constitution. Article 44 now reads thus: The President, Vice President, Members of the House of Representatives and District Councils shall be elected directly by the people. This in effect means that Puntland is adopting a one-person-one-vote electoral formula for all the aforementioned positions.

Hitherto, the President is elected by MPs who are first elected by clan caucuses. Of note also is that the Presidency and Vice Presidency are not at the moment a joint ticket meaning the President picks their deputy at will.

READ ALSO: Puntland MPs endorse controversial constitutional changes

Article 46 which focuses on multiparty democracy has now been changed as followed: Sub-article 1 now provides that all political organisations that secure a seat in the district council elections will qualify to be registered as official political parties of the state. This is interpreted to mean the May 25 elections. Sub-article 2 provides that in the next election (2028), a political organisation will be required to garner at least 5% of the district council seats to qualify as a duly registered political party.

Why is the opposition opposed to the changes?

The opposition has strongly opposed the proposed changes on the grounds that President Abdullahi Deni seeks to extend his term in office by pushing for a review of the constitution. They argue that once a one-person-one-vote model is adopted, the President, through the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) will demand more time to prepare the country for this exercise which no doubt requires considerable time and resources. They argue that Deni is eyeing a two-year extension following in the footsteps of his counterparts in Galmudug, South West and Jubaland states who have since secured between one and two years of additional time in office.

Another key concern which has however subtly featured is the claim that Deni seeks to upset the rotational clan arrangement. Proponents of this course argue that power should now move to Iise Mohamud sub-clan of the Majerteen-Darood clan after Osman Mohamud (Majerteen-Darood clan) which Deni belongs to. By opting for universal suffrage, the clan-based system ceases to exist and thus a candidate from any clan could be elected president.

What action is the opposition taking?

Already two suits have been filed at the Constitutional Court to challenge the review process. Opposition politician Guled Salah Barre and Mideeye Political Organisation have both filed separate petitions before the Constitutional Court. Analysts however say the suits might not see the light of day owing to Deni’s influence in the judiciary.

Who are some of the major political figures?

Among the key political figures in Puntland who are expected to feature in the January elections are former Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke (Osman Mohamud-Majerteen), former Puntland president Senator Abdirahman Faroole (Iise Mohamud-Majerteen) and former PM Abdiweli Gaas (Omar Mohamud-Majerteen).

What do we know about district council elections?

Puntland conducted ‘historic’ one-person-one-vote elections in May. The ruling Kaah political organisation garnered majority seats (286) followed by Mideeye which got 211 while Sincad secured 133 seats. Ifiye got 78, Mustaqbal, 57, Shaqalah, 7 while Run’ad got 2 seats. There are nine registered political organisations in Puntland.

Out of the 33 districts, elections took place in 30 while the exercise was postponed for three districts.