NAIROBI, KENYA —
Somalia's new 66-member parliament is showing a new and increased willingness to challenge the president and prime minister. Lawmakers in the past often have rubber-stamped presidential initiatives, but the new parliament is exerting more independence.
Some observers say this is a political ploy by the executives and parliament in an effort to remain in power beyond 2016.
In an interview with VOA Somali service, Somalia Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmake blamed differences between his predecessor, Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed, and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for delaying the new administration.
He said a new system of power-sharing is being created that is based on political alliances in parliament, as opposed to the usual clan-based politicking.
Appointed in December, Sharmake twice was forced to revise his list of cabinet nominees by lawmakers who argued it did not reflect clan dynamics and included people they blamed for political division.
International Crisis Group Horn of Africa Project Director Cedric Barnes said with the cabinet now in place, he expects Somalia's political leaders to sharply focus on the next elections.
"What we have now is agreement between the executive, the president, and members of parliament in so much that they will work together to all come back in 2016 for another five years," said Barnes. "So the election that will take place is probably going to be very top-down, very much about nomination, about clan power and about agreement between big political players to remain in the political game."
Under Somalia's Federal Charter, political power is dominated by four major clans, and lesser influence is given to minority clans, under what is known as the "Four Point Five Plan" - an arrangement blamed for frequent political bickering and division.
Earlier this month, EU Special Envoy to Somalia Michele Cervone d'Urso told VOA that advisors and lawmakers are working on a democratic process not based on the 4.5 Plan, but linked to the realities of the Somali population.
Barnes said there are important issues that need to be worked out, such as the establishment of federal states and the creation of a true national army.
"My impression is what we will see is just a great deal of politicking to achieve the elections in 2016, and not the focus on the real nuts-and-bolts, the real issues that most average Somalis ... in Mogadishu, in Beledweyne, in Kismayo or wherever are really concerned with," said Barnes. "And that is probably the tragedy of this. There are opportunities now that will go begging because of the obsession with the people in power in Mogadishu."
U.N. envoy to Somalia Nicholas Kay told the Security Council this month he is excited because this year will be pivotal in how the country can become a unified, peaceful and federal state. He said he is worried, however, about significant challenges and risks posed by greater delay and political bickering.
The United Nations wants federal states established, a constitutional referendum held, and the creation of a National Independent Electoral Commission before the elections are held.