Interview with SRSG Michael Keating on the United Nations Role in the 2016 electoral process
Interviewer: Hello sir, welcome and thank you for agreeing to do this interview. What is the role of the UN in the electoral process?
SRSG: The UN’s role is to support a Somali owned and Somali managed electoral process. Our job is to provide technical support and advice, but very much to respond to what Somalis themselves want to achieve through this process.
In terms of the timetable, that needs to be set by the electoral implementation teams according to the steps that must be taken to ensure that the process is credible.
Interviewer: When is the electoral process going to take place in 2016?
SRSG: Under the constitution, the electoral process should take place towards the end of August. The challenge is going to be to hold the electoral process on time, given that a number of things have to be put in place for it to be credible in the eyes of the Somali public and indeed in the eyes of the international community. The FIEIT is the Federal Indirect Elections Implementation Team and it consists of a group of people, 22 people who have been brought together to set the rules of the game as it were, to prepare for the electoral process. And they are working together in the best interests of Somalia to devise the rules that will govern this process.
Interviewer: What role did the UN play in the negotiations over the 2016 electoral process and the formal adoption of the model via a presidential decree earlier this year?
SRSG: The main role that the UN has played has been in bringing everyone together to discuss what is most desirable for Somalia.
In 2012, the election was of 275 MPs by 135 clan elders using the famous 4.5 formula; the 4 big clans and the 0.5 for the minorities. In 2020, the ambition is to go to one-person one-vote which is a big, big jump. So what we did, is facilitate discussions in the last six even twelve months among Somali political leaders, involving civil society, involving youth groups, involving women to help figure out what kind of formula would be most acceptable to Somalis in terms of a midway point between 2012 and 2020.
Interviewer: Isn’t the 2016 electoral process worse than 2012 in some ways?
SRSG: I think 2016 is already looking significantly different to 2012 in a number of ways. First of all, it’s much more inclusive. In 2012, 135 clan elders chose 275 MPs. This time, the number of electors, is going to be multiplied by 100s, 14,000 people including many women and that’s another big difference, many women in the electoral colleges will be involved in the election of the 275 MPs.
Secondly, the voting is going to take place around the country in six or seven locations, so there’s going to be real sense of much more local ownership. There’s going to be ballot boxes, there will be a mechanism for verifying whether the process is being conducted, there’ll be secret voting. So it’s going to have aspects that simply did not exist in 2012.
Interviewer: Does the UN have a position on the reservation of 30 percent of all seats for women in parliament?
SRSG: The UN is really delighted as are many international partners by the commitment that was made by Somali leaders, that’s the National Leadership Forum, to reserving 30 percent of the seats for women. Our view on the basis of our global experience, in all countries of all cultures is that women’s participation in politics makes politics better. They tend to be much better at raising issues of national concern where men tend to focus on the power of their particular communities.
It just makes sense for Somalia to stick to its own promises and make sure that women have a full role in the political life of the country.
Interviewer: Isn’t the FIEIT working with the UN and isn’t there a bias?
SRSG: The UN is actually trying to work with everybody. We’re working with not only the Federal government but the Federal member states. We’re engaging with civil society. This is a very unique moment in Somalia’s political history and our job is to make sure that Somalis are sorting out what they want, are benefiting from global experience regarding rules, procedures, what makes a process transparent, what can make it fair, what can make it verifiable and so on.