Somalia has emerged from two decades of statelessness to now being described as a ‘fragile state’. This development led the international community and financial institutions to re-establish political and economic relations, and pressure has increased for Somalia to hold direct multiparty elections. However, given past obstacles to implementing federal-level direct elections, it remains unclear how this can be achieved. We explore how Somalia can implement a successful transition to multiparty system elections. We argue that first holding local (district- and state-level) elections can bring Somalia closer to multiparty elections at the federal level. We conclude with recommendations for Somalia’s federal government and international partners on the critical first steps in the transition to multiparty elections.