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Presidential or Hybrid Presidential-Parliamentary System: Is President Hassan Sheikh Choosing Political Stability Over the Risk of Civil War?
By Abdullahi Hussein
Monday October 30, 2023

 


Upon independence in 1960, the Somali Republic adopted a parliamentary system of government with an executive prime minister and ceremonial president. The system worked well until the army forces led by Major General Siad Barre overthrew the government and replaced it with a dictatorial system of government which was ousted by rebels in 1991. When the TFG was formed in 2000, nonetheless, the parliamentary system of government was restored. That system of government is still in place and the current FGS has a prime minister and president. However, President Hassan Sh. Mohamoud has voiced his concern about this hybrid Parliamentary-Presidential system and expressed his desire to do away with the prime minister’s post and replace it with an executive president and vice president. In this short piece, I shall shed light on the pros and cons of this current hybrid system of presidential-parliamentary vis-à-vis presidential system in light of our recent history and experiences. 


President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has expressed his desire to replace the current hybrid system with a presidential system in order to get rid of the constant rifts between presidents and prime ministers and thereby allow governments to complete their terms. A presidential system may provide stability in terms of allowing governments to complete their term, however, it has its drawbacks. First, an executive president may become so unrestrained given the institutional weaknesses of our judiciary and parliament. Second, Somalis have the tendency to resort to violence, especially, when there is a feeling that the government has exceeded its term or authority. These two realities when combined create a dangerous cocktail that could ignite a civil war.  


Another reason why President Hassan Sh. Mohamoud wants to have a presidential system is, perhaps, to become more effective in decision making and policy implementations. It was the military regime of Siad Barre that first introduced the presidential system with several vice presidents after overthrowing the parliamentary system of government led by Prime Minister Egal in 1969. This system is by nature more effective in both decision making and policy implementations. However, decisions made under a presidential system may not be as sustainable, in the long-run, as compared to those made under parliamentary system since the former lack public discourse and consensus-building processes. In contrast, decision making and implementation processes are painstakingly slow in the parliamentary system since the process is consensus-based and takes into account wishes and views of coalition partners. 


Since independence, Somali judiciary has historically been weak and will remain so in the foreseeable future. In both Somalia and Somaliland, for instance, the president has the power to appoint and dismiss judges in supreme court, including the chief justice. Therefore, the Somali judiciary is not the forum where people, including politicians, feel that their disputes could be fairly settled. 


How Hybrid System Saved Somalia from Civil Wars


There was a political deadlock between President Abdullahi Yusuf and an opposition group---Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (formally the Union of Islamic Courts) ---when Prime Minister Nur Adde tilted the balance in favor of the opposition and thereby paving the way the forced resignation of President Abdullahi Yusuf in December 2008. Without PM Nur Adde’s courageous political move, the country may have plunged back into full-scale civil war. 


There was also a recent political quagmire in the country when President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo attempted to postpone the presidential election and unlawfully extend his term in office. The opposition members, including the incumbent President Hassan Sh. Mohamoud, displayed a credible threat of force through Badbaado Qaran---a move that put the country on the brink of civil war. If it were not for the patriotic move of Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble to put a stop to President Farmajo’s plans, the country may have plunged back into protracted civil war.  


Somaliland’s Presidential System and its shortcomings:


After separating from the rest of the Somali Republic, Somaliland has adopted a Presidential System. The system has been very stable since every government, except the first one, not only completed but also overstayed its term: 


Abdirahman Ahmed Ali (Tur): 1991-1993

Mohamed H. Ibrahim Egal: 1993-2002

Dahir Riyale Kahin: 2002-2010

Ahmed Silanyo: 2010-2017

Muse Bihi: 2017-now


 However, Somaliland’s presidential system manifested stress and its weakness got exposed during President Muse Bihi tenure in office. Because of his selfish and reckless transgressions, President Bihi steered Somaliland in uncharted waters and threatened its stability and harmed its reputation. For instance, he willfully derailed the presidential election scheduled to take place in November 2022. Moreover, he added insult to injury by unsuccessfully attempting to delegitimize opposition parties. Furthermore, he naively sidestepped Somaliland-Khatumo agreement signed by Ahmed Silanyo and Ali Khalif thereby leaving people in Sool region no other option but to take up arms against Somaliland.  Because of this bad experience under President Bihi, there has been discussions among Somaliland intelligentsia on whether Somaliland should move to the hybrid system, currently practiced by Somalia, in which power is shared between the president and prime minister. 


It is really strange that Somalia is considering moving to a presidential system while Somaliland is going the opposite direction. There is a Somali proverb: “Geel geel waydaartay waa geedo la’aan” which roughly translates into “when camel herders looking for greener posture move their camels into each other’s turf, there is no greener posture to be found anywhere.” 

This vividly demonstrates that after sixty-three years of independence, we are still looking for a governance model that can satisfy our Somali way of life vis-a-vis state power. 


 In this juncture of its history, Somali government(s) need more than anything else a governance system that accommodates consensus-based decision-making processes. Furthermore, in the absence of an independent judiciary that can fairly settle disputes and restrain the powers of an executive president, the current hybrid system is perhaps the only safety valve that may stop us from falling back to our Somali way of settling our differences in the battlefield. 


Abdullahi Hussein lectures on Public Policy. 

He can be reached at [email protected]



 





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