Somalia’s electoral body strengthened to work on political parties’ registration
Nairobi, 11 July 2017 – Enhancing the institutional capacity to register and manage Somalia’s political parties through the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) was the focus of a three-day meeting, which opened yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya.
Electoral experts drawn from countries in Africa and the Middle East, and from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have delivered the requisite knowledge on registering parties, observing international standards for candidate nomination and monitoring campaign financing.
“This workshop is very important to us in our mandate of registering and regulating political parties as part of the electoral process. We want to gain experiences and lessons from different parts of the world,” Halima Ismail Ibrahim, NIEC Chairperson, said about the workshop, which was supported by the UNDP / UNSOM Integrated Electoral Support Group (IESG) and the Organization of Arab Electoral Management Bodies.
“At the end of the workshop, we want to be able to answer all the questions related to the electoral process – political parties’ fees, membership and other requirements.”
Ms. Ibrahim detailed her Commission’s achievements since its establishment in July 2015. “We have finalized our five-year strategic plan that comprises seven agenda items to guide the commission in its work, and planned our activities that include engaging and building linkages with regional states,” she stated.
The Commission, she added, had already created its secretariat, comprising of 28 employees, while also establishing an office for registering political parties. A five-member liaison committee joining together the Commission and the emerging political parties has also been established.
In his address, Gerald Mitchell, IESG Director, said political parties were critical to the democratic process – one reason why his team was assisting the NIEC meet its mandate: “This is a landmark meeting and brings comparative examples from Arab countries and other parts of the world on how political parties are essential elements of democracy,” he noted.
“It is thus a great opportunity for the Somalia National Independent Electoral Commission to gather the experiences necessary for universal elections,” he added.
Badrieh Bilbisi, the Secretary General of the Organization of Arab Electoral Management Bodies, said her organization would work with the NIEC to ensure the implementation of the outcomes of the workshop.
The workshop fits within the objective of the Organization of Arab Electoral Management Bodies, which aims to enhance cooperation among its member nations and to serve as a platform for exchanging information and best practice, both keys to the NIEC’s capacity building. It is part of a journey leading to Somalia’s 2020/2021 one-person-one-vote elections, and builds the necessary technical capacity on electoral administration for the NIEC, to enable them to conduct elections in a more effective way, adhering to Somalia’s laws and in line with international standards.
“It is necessary for NIEC to strengthen its ability to carry out its responsibilities and duties,” Ms. Bilbisi stressed.
Speakers at the workshop include Lucy Ndung’u, Registrar of Political Parties in Kenya; Aminu Idris, Deputy Director of the Nigeria Independent Electoral Commission; Saad Ali Abdali, Head of Political Parties Registration Department in Iraq; Mouldi Ayari, Adviser of Tunisian Parliament and former head of Tunisia’s Electoral Campaign Department; and Anus abu AlSebaa, Head of Political Parties Department, Palestine Central Elections Commission.
Mr. Idris said he was encouraged to share his country’s experience in managing elections with the NIEC. “Somalia and Nigeria have one thing in common – both are emerging from war to democracy. It is important to always share experiences. Indeed, it will be beneficial for the NIEC to draw from us on how to build strong [electoral] institutions,” he noted.
IESG official Joanne Cheah, who is based in Mogadishu, Somalia, said her team was working with the NIEC to help the electoral body understand its roles and responsibilities. “[The] NIEC is looking into ways of registering political parties and how it can be applied in Somalia. It’s about formulating better electoral procedures and guidelines, and how to resolve any ensuing challenges.”
The workshop, which closes on Wednesday, features group work, presentations and discussions designed to apply experiences by other electoral commissions such as Iraq, Sudan and Palestine. The process of how to implement legislation to ensure adherence to the political party law will be a key feature in the workshop, as a useful tool in the country’s upcoming process of party registration.