Vote buying, violence mar parliamentary elections in Somalia

Somalia’s Auditor General, Nur Jimale Farah, said the country’s ongoing parliamentary election is characterized by vote buying, fraud, intimidation and violence.

Farah said Electoral College delegates, who are electing members of parliament, are voting for the highest bidder.

“Some votes were bought with $5,000, some with $10,000, and some with $20,000 or $30,000. But not all seats are equal. Some are influential seats and have a lot of candidates competing for them,” he said.

He said two seats cost their respective winners $1.3 million each. He said his office recorded that one of the seats was won in Galmudug and the other in Hirshabelle.

Farah said some delegates were threatened, some stayed away because they were afraid, and others weren’t allowed into election halls while other people used their names to vote.

“In Baidoa, some delegates were kept outside, a candidate was kept outside; the one candidate who got inside was elected. It was claimed the other one gave up, although he is being kept outside. There were two such cases in Kismayo, too,” he said.

Farah said his office recorded six candidates who were elected under these circumstances.

This was the first evidence of alleged vote buying in Lower House and Upper House elections, which are taking place in five major towns in Somalia.

More than 14,000 Electoral College delegates are voting for the 275-member Lower House of parliament, and so far, fewer than half of the members have been selected. Regional parliaments are also electing the 54-member Upper House, where 80 percent of the seats have been filled.

Farah said some candidates were elected unopposed, although their challengers were present and were kept outside election halls.

He explained that the seats are expensive because some of the candidates are desperate to get into parliament as they believe doing so will give them immunity and protection.

Contrary to the rules of the election, Farah said, some of the candidates hold official government positions and have committed “abuse of power” to get seats.

The electoral commission Friday night suspended the election in Jowhar town where the government minister for youth, Mohamed Hassan Noah, was competing against a new challenger and gunfire broke out between bodyguards of the political rivals. Four people were wounded.

The international community, including the U.N., acknowledges vote-buying practices. U.N. Special Representative for Somalia Michael Keating said that vote buying and bribes were a “reality,” but he doubted that money would translate into votes.

But Farah said money was translating into votes because, for some seats, voting was by show of hands, contrary to election rules, and in other cases candidates took their own fake delegates into the election hall to vote for them.

The presidential election is scheduled to take place November 30, after the election of the parliament is completed.


VOA/Zainab Sa’id