On Monday Somalia will elect a new president. However, ordinary Somalis will have no say in the election. The leaders of the country are currently finalising the composition of its 275 member parliament, which will determine who is to be the president.
Monday brings to an end the United Nations (UN) backed Transitional Federal Government. The leaders of the country are currently agreeing amongst themselves the membership of the new parliament. The parliamentarians will decide who will be the next president and the president will appoint the prime minister. According to the Washington Post,
...it's hard to find any ordinary Somalis excited by the political changes.
The pessimism of ordinary Somalis is not difficult to understand. Many of the candidates are long standing members of the current government, which has been marred by allegations of corruption and ineffectiveness. The government has been particularly strongly criticised for it failure to provide security, even within the capital itself.
However, there may be some basis for hope of an improved future for the country. According to ABC News, Mohamed Abdullahi, a Mogadishu resident, said that Somalia is at a crossroads and can't afford to miss the opportunity to take a political step forward. He added:
The country needs a government that can pacify the country and open doors for multinational development that we badly need to jump start our economy and rebuild the country.
There is also the fact that presidential candidates have actively campaigned, even though ordinary Somalis have no vote. This suggests the candidates recognise the need for political legitimacy. In these campaigns, promises of good governance and the preservation of women's rights are routine.
Another sign of increased concern with the rights of the people was seen earlier in the month when Somali leaders endorsed a UN supported provisional constitution that enhances the rights of the people. There are suggestions that the constitution will be voted on by the whole country.
However, these signs of hope are rather fragile and there are serious indications of discontent in the country. In an editorial, the Somaliland Times accused the UN of utterly failing the people of Somalia. It claims the
...so called “national election”... will undoubtedly re-ignite the simmering Somali tribal war.
In a thundering piece, the Somaliland Times claims that the non-election to end the transition is really nothing more than
...an un-representative tool to further dispossess and abuse the long suffering victims of Mogadishu.
Whilst the rhetoric of the Somaliland Times may be over blown, it is hard to see how Monday's election will help to transform Somalia. The membership of the parliament will determined by the relative strengths of clan loyalites, rather than political policies. This is a recipe for the continuation of the politics of corruption that has marred the country for so long. Only last month, the UN's monitoring group reported that 70 percent of all aid never made it into the state coffers. It also found that a quarter of state expenditure was absorbed by the country's top three leaders: the leading candidates for the presidency.
Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the current president and a leading candidate in Monday's election, has strongly denied that there has been any misappropriation of aid funds. The denial hardly suggests Somalia's leaders are ready for change.