World News The Dawn of a New Era: Somalia’s Pivotal Shift from a Parliamentary to Presidential System

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Monday, 16 October 2023

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Image credit: Abdullahi Abdullahi/Unsplash


Somalia, for decades, has been in the throes of political instability. Its clan-based parliamentary selection process, the 4.5 formula, became an accidental incubator for divisive politics and extremist ideologies. Yet, as the nation stands at a crossroads, a rectified constitution that shifts from a parliamentary to a presidential system complemented by a two-party electoral mechanism could be the much-needed hope for a unified and stable Somalia.

The 4.5 formula, conceived initially as an interim solution to represent the major clans and minority groups, has proven to be a significant obstacle in fostering genuine democratic processes. Instead of unifying the nation, it ossified clan divisions and made way for politicking based on kinship rather than real political ideologies or the people’s will. This environment, riddled with mistrust and nepotism, provided fertile ground for extremist factions, most notably Al Shabab, to exploit the vulnerabilities and further destabilize the region.

Switching to a presidential system could pave the way for a more substantial centralized authority. In such a setup, the President, as the elected head of state, possesses the mandate of the entire nation, breaking free from the shackles of clan-centric politics. This would bolster national unity and streamline decision-making processes, making governance more efficient.

Complementing this with a two-party system can further democratize Somalia’s political landscape. When people are presented with clear choices, they’re more likely to rally around ideologies rather than tribal affiliations. Such a system promotes healthy competition, fostering an environment where parties are incentivized to work for the public’s interest, knowing they will be held accountable in subsequent elections.

Moreover, direct elections empower the citizenry. When people elect their leaders, they develop a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the governance of their nation. Such involvement is instrumental in nurturing an informed and engaged populace, a critical component in suppressing extremist ideologies.

A stable Somalia isn’t just crucial for its citizens but pivotal for the entire region. A politically sound Somalia can be a deterrent to extremist factions, a trade beacon for East Africa, and a testament to the continent’s ability to rise above challenges and chart its destiny.

The proposed shift in Somalia’s constitutional framework is not just a change in governance but a profound transformation in its political identity. By embracing a presidential system and a two-party electoral mechanism, Somalia has the potential to metamorphose into one of the most politically stable nations in Africa, offering its people the promise of a brighter, more harmonious future.


   *Ismail D. Osman: Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him osmando[at] @osmando

Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion at the XXIX International Rosa Luxemburg Conference in Berlin on January

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