The Husseen Government

Somalia Table of Contents

Countrywide municipal elections, in which the SYL won 74 percent of the seats, occurred in November 1963. These were followed in March 1964 by the country's first postindependence national elections. Again the SYL triumphed, winning 69 out of l23 parliamentary seats. The party's true margin of victory was even greater, as the fifty-four seats won by the opposition were divided among a number of small parties.

After the 1964 National Assembly election in March, a crisis occurred that left Somalia without a government until the beginning of September. President Usmaan, who was empowered to propose the candidate for prime minister after an election or the fall of a government, chose Abdirizaaq Haaji Husseen as his nominee instead of the incumbent, Shermaarke, who had the endorsement of the SYL party leadership. Shermaarke had been prime minister for the four previous years, and Usmaan decided that new leadership might be able to introduce fresh ideas for solving national problems.

In drawing up a Council of Ministers for presentation to the National Assembly, the nominee for prime minister chose candidates on the basis of ability and without regard to place of origin. But Husseen's choices strained intraparty relations and broke the unwritten rules that there be clan and regional balance. For instance, only two members of Shermaarke's cabinet were to be retained, and the number of posts in northern hands was to be increased from two to five.

The SYL's governing Central Committee and its parliamentary groups became split. Husseen had been a party member since 1944 and had participated in the two previous Shermaarke cabinets. His primary appeal was to younger and more educated party members. Several political leaders who had been left out of the cabinet joined the supporters of Shermaarke to form an opposition group within the party. As a result, the Husseen faction sought support among non-SYL members of the National Assembly.

Although the disagreements primarily involved personal or group political ambitions, the debate leading to the initial vote of confidence centered on the issue of Greater Somalia. Both Usmaan and prime minister-designate Husseen wanted to give priority to the country's internal economic and social problems. Although Husseen had supported militant pan-Somalism, he was portrayed as willing to accept the continued sovereignty of Ethiopia and Kenya over Somali areas.

The proposed cabinet failed to be affirmed by a margin of two votes. Seven National Assembly members, including Shermaarke, abstained, while forty-eight members of the SYL voted for Husseen and thirty-three opposed him. Despite the apparent split in the SYL, it continued to attract recruits from other parties. In the first three months after the election, seventeen members of the parliamentary opposition resigned from their parties to join the SYL.

Usmaan ignored the results of the vote and again nominated Husseen as prime minister. After intraparty negotiation, which included the reinstatement of four party officials expelled for voting against him, Husseen presented a second cabinet list to the National Assembly that included all but one of his earlier nominees. However, the proposed new cabinet contained three additional ministerial positions filled by men chosen to mollify opposition factions. The new cabinet was approved with the support of all but a handful of SYL National Assembly members. Husseen remained in office until the presidential elections of June 1967.

The 1967 presidential elections, conducted by a secret poll of National Assembly members, pitted former prime minister Shermaarke against Usmaan. Again the central issue was moderation versus militancy on the pan-Somali question. Usmaan, through Husseen, had stressed priority for internal development. Shermaarke, who had served as prime minister when pan-Somalism was at its height, was elected president of the republic.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress