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A Bill to Give Somali People the Right to Political Participation

The president of Somalia has signed a landmark federal law, paving the way for the country to hold its first popular election in half a century. A long awaited “one person, one vote” election could be held by the end of the year. The law is expected to replace the existing clan-based, power-sharing model, which gives the country’s main clans equal representation in government. The proposed system would still ensure clan representation in parliament, however, which has raised concerns about the potential for continued marginalisation of minorities and women. Analysts have questioned whether the country is ready for a popular election. In a desperate attempt to stop the bloodshed and restore law and order, Somali leaders – with backing from the UN – agreed on a clan-based form of governance known as the “4.5 system”. Under this system, parliamentary seats and most government positions are divided equally among the four major clans, with the remainder allocated to a cluster of minority clans. This model, which was meant to be a temporary measure to mitigate clan conflict, has become a never-ending problem.