NAIROBI — As the process for ending Somalia's political transition gathers momentum, some presidential candidates have been accused of both interfering with the process of electing new parliamentarians and vote-buying ahead of the presidential election, which is due to take place on August 20.
It is common to hear one of the dozens of presidential candidates say "I want to run for president."
In response, many Somali politicians and the public ask, "Does he have money to buy votes?"
Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed, a presidential candidate, says questioning how deep is the pocket of a candidate is like saying only corrupt leaders who have stolen from state coffers are eligible to run.
“That’s the most cynical question, because the issue of running Somalia is not about money," he said. "That's a wrong question. The issue is do you have vision and plan how you are going to build Somalia?”
The transition process calls for clan elders to choose members of a new parliament. Those new lawmakers will then elect the new president.
Mohamed Ali Hashi, a former political advisor in Somalia, says clan elders are using their power in the process to advance their communities' interests -- something the candidates are well aware of. “Even clans have their own interests. They do negotiate with candidates but since candidates are very many and everybody is trying to sell his own candidacy campaign, the clans can also be confused because everybody is promising whatever he was asked,” he added.
According to Hashi, since every candidate is promising the same thing, financial offers are often the deciding factor. “There are also financial interests and as you know these Somali people, with the difficulties they have, money is one of the items which can influence the vote," he stated. "So the financial influence is also there very strongly.”
Hashi says candidates call certain clan representatives who will be voting, and give them the money they request which clan members divide among themselves.
Earlier this month, the U.N. special representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, warned of vote-buying and corruption taking place in the process to name new lawmakers.
He said parliamentary seats should not be commodities for sale or items for auction at a time when the international community is trying to restore stability to Somalia.
A senior U.S. State Department official warned the United States will take action against anyone who seeks to undermine the process, including members of Somalia's government.