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NIEC rules out elections this year, says earliest March 2021

A popular vote in Somalia is not feasible this year, the country’s electoral body has said noting such an option is only possible within nine to 13 months.

The National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) chairperson Halima Yarey told parliament today the commission needed up to 13 months to prepare a credible poll where Somalis will cast their vote individually.

Yarey said to conduct the vote based on the Elections Law, the Commission will need 13 months to carry out nationwide biometric voter registration. The Elections Law which is currently undergoing amendments only settles for use of technology and does not provide for manual option.

But in her submission to the House today, the NIEC chair suggested flexibility noting the manual option is cheaper and faster and could take only nine months as opposed to biometric which is costly in acquisition and training of staff.

In effect therefore, Yarey said, the earliest Somalia can go to the polls is March 2021 if Parliament approves the manual voter registration option. But if parliament does not bend, then the country will be ready for elections in August 2021 under the biometric system.

It’s notable that these timelines are based on the understanding that voter registration kicks off next month.

This timeline is not viable since Parliament is even yet to dispense with amendments to the Elections Act let alone a host of other preparations such as acquisition of biometric equipment, training of staff and security logistics.

With the pronouncements today, Somalia will therefore not beat the Constitutional provisions which dictate that the term of the current parliament lapses by November this year while a new president must be elected by February 2021.

Somalia may now contemplate the 2016 model which provided for participation of 14,025 delegates to elect the 275 MPs or a similar version to meet the constitutional timelines.

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