Somalia’s ongoing parliamentary elections have no credibility becauses of vote buying, fraud, intimidation and violence, the country’s auditor general said in an exclusive interview with VOA Somali.
Nur Jimale 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.
Asked why the seats are so expensive, Farah said some candidates, among them business leaders and well-known individuals, believe getting into the parliament will give them immunity and protection.
“They are using the seats as a sanctuary,” he said.
Several former warlords with a history of violence were also elected to the two houses of parliament.
Plenty of blame
Abdirashid Hashi, director of the Heritage Institute, a Mogadishu think tank, said regional officials were getting themselves elected and were winning with higher vote margins. If someone is not wanted to win, he is not going to win, he said.
Hashi said anyone thinking that this election is legitimate is “walking in the dark.”
He said the candidates who are paying the money and delegates who are accepting it are equally to blame.
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.
“Someone who is in a government position and someone who isn’t are not equal in competing for these parliamentary seats, because one person has the power and this election is about power. A civil servant and an ordinary person are not on equal terms in this election,” he said.
Farah said he wasn’t ruling out the possibility that taxpayer money had been used in buying votes, and that officials were trying to determine whether money taken from central government accounts had been used.
“When there is power abuse, there is nothing stopping them from using government money,” he said.
Gunfire in Jowhar
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.
One clan elder responsible for selecting Electoral College delegates was shot dead in Adado town. Two weeks ago, a dispute between two Electoral College delegates turned deadly when one fatally stabbed the other.
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.
“I think the important thing is that the voting, when it actually takes place, is secret, that there are no cellphones for people to take photographs of how they voted,” Keating said in a U.N. video.
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.
Hashi said the current leaders of the government want to return to power, while other new candidates want to unseat them.
“When we have a final list of the 275 MPs and the 54 senators, it will be clearer to predict who has the chance to win [the presidency],” he said.
The electoral commission could not be reached for comment.