In place of political parties, clans and sub-clans currently vie for political power in Somalia.
Prior to October 1969, Somalia had a multiparty system of government where opposition in parliament came from within the majority party as well as from opposition parties. The Somali Youth League (SYL), the largest party, was formed in 1943 as the Somali Youth Club. Its program included the unification of all Somalis (including those in Kenya, Ethiopia, and French Somaliland); social, political, and economic development; and nonalignment in international affairs. It represented almost all government personnel, entrepreneurs, and skilled and quasi-skilled workers of the southern area, formerly Italian Somaliland. In the first national elections after independence, held on 30 March 1964, the SYL won an absolute majority of 69 of the 123 parliamentary seats. The remaining seats were divided among 11 parties. In general elections held in March 1969, the ruling SYL, led by Mohammed Ibrahim Egal, was returned to power. A total of 64 political parties contested the elections. In October 1969, the Supreme Revolutionary Council (SRC) prohibited all political parties and announced that elections would be held in due course. In 1976, the SRC was abolished and its functions transferred to the leadership of the newly formed Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP), which was led by the former SRC members. Siad Barre was general secretary of the SRSP, which remained the sole legal party until his overthrow in January 1991. Subsequently, the Somali National Movement (SNM) seized control of the north and established the independent state of "Somaliland." Since then, armed factions largely identified with clans and sub-clans divided up the territory as they fought and negotiated to expand their influence.
Curiously, many of the factions bear the titles of political parties; e.g., the Somali Democratic Movement, the Somali National Union, the Somali Patriotic Movement, and the United Somali Congress (USC). In fact, their bases are not national. The USC controlled Mogadishu and much of central Somalia until late in 1991 when it split into two major factions. Aideed's Somali National Alliance (SNA) identified with the Habar Gadir subclan of the Hawiye clan and Ali Mahdi's Somali Salvation Alliance (Abgal subclan of the Hawiyes). Currently the latter exists as the "Group of Twelve" coalition and these are the two dominant claimants to national power.
Aideed was killed on 1 August 1996 and was succeeded by his son, Hussein Muhammad Aideed. Some observers believe he could be displaced by Osman Ali Atto, an elder clansman and former Aideed advisor who was a rival of the General's at the time of the latter's death. Osman Atto is considered more moderate than Aideed, and more receptive to a political solution for Somalia.