Somalia: How Deni plots to 'rig' upcoming Puntland elections
GAROWE, Somalia - With pressure mounting on him over plans to delay elections, Puntland leader Said Abdullahi Deni may have hatched a plan to win January elections by compromising the process, the opposition claims, noting that there is a conspiracy to rig elections.
After immense pressure from elders, Deni agreed to have indirect polls in the state, a shift from his earlier proposal to have direct elections, an idea vehemently opposed by the opposition. His term is set to elapse in January 2024 according to the constitution.
Already, a plot by members of the regional assembly to extend their term has been annulled by the constitutional court, but the team insists judges of the apex court 'went against certain provisions'. Lawmakers had extended their term for 12 months, technically granting Deni an illegal term extension.
And on Tuesday, the opposition maintained that regardless of Deni's change of heart, he may have hatched another plot to continue staying in power, this time aiming to 'create conflict' among the clans which would play an integral role in polls.
Candidates vying for the presidency accused Deni of plotting to sow a conflict among clans to hijack their representatives in the upcoming parliament, which is due to be elected in the coming days should the region stay with the plan.
In the wider plot, the opposition alleges, Deni wants staff members at his office, army members, and civil servants to become MPs to vote for him in the January election. Having sycophants in the local assembly, they claimed, would trigger a second term for the regional leader.
The alliance warns President Deni against appointing of an election-related committee that is not part of the stakeholders, including the opposition, vice president, parliament, and elders.
The opposition now calls on the communities to be aware of the division by the president and elect their parliamentarians who are not conflicted, responsible, and can serve the interest of Puntland.
Earlier, Deni had announced an eight-member dispute resolution and vetting committee for the upcoming parliamentary election amid calls by the opposition for a transparent and inclusive process. It is not clear how the team will work with the opposition.
Members of the international community had called for order in the state, which is considered as the most stable of Somalia's six regions. Puntland is also one of the oldest federal states, with structured leadership elected by representatives over time.
Despite dismissing claims of plans to rig elections, Deni has been struggling to mutilate election laws in his favour, sparking protests from members of the public. He is also facing allegations of nepotism, widespread corruption, ineptness, and general maladministration.
The opposition formations have expressed confidence that should the state fail to prepare for upcoming elections, they will then go ahead and carry out the exercise. Deni is also facing a host of tribulations, including struggling to pay members of regional security teams.