More than a million voters voted Monday, May 31 in the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland for legislative and local elections, through which the authorities intended to demonstrate their ability to organize democratic elections in the very unstable Horn of Africa.
This separatist region in northwestern Somalia proclaimed its independence thirty years ago, has its own government, its own army and prints its own currency. But Somaliland has failed to gain international recognition and is officially part of Somalia.
National Election Commission Chairman Abdirashid Mohamed Ali told reporters polling stations closed as scheduled at 6 p.m. (3 p.m. GMT) “And that the people voted peacefully”, greeting “Successful elections”. Results are expected within five days.
President Muse Bihi Abdi and the leaders of the two opposition parties, who voted in the capital Hargeisa, called for the elections to run smoothly. “Somaliland votes for peace. It’s an honor for our people [et] the Horn of Africa as a whole ”Mr. Muse said on his Twitter account.
Voters from the age of 15 – the legal voting age – had to choose from nearly 250 candidates to fill the 82 parliamentary seats and from some 1,000 candidates for the 249 local councilor positions.
“In a peaceful and inclusive manner”
These two elections are being held years behind schedule. The last legislative election dates back to 2005. This vote constitutes “An important moment for democracy in Somaliland”said a UK-funded independent monitoring team.
The electoral commission acknowledged that delays in the polls were recurrent in Somaliland, while stressing that all “Took place in a peaceful and inclusive manner, a very rare case in this unstable region of the Horn of Africa”.
The smooth and universal suffrage elections in Somaliland stand in stark contrast to the situation in Somalia, which did not hold a ballot based on the principle of“One person, one voice” in fifty years.
After months of deadlock that led to deadly violence, the government of Mogadishu and the leaders of the five semi-autonomous Somali states agreed at the end of May to hold elections within sixty days, initially scheduled for no later than February.
They must be held according to an indirect system, where special delegates invested by a myriad of clans and sub-clans choose the parliamentarians, who themselves appoint the president.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia upon the fall of autocrat Siad Barré in 1991 and, although extremely poor, it enjoyed peace and stability as Somalia plunged into chaos.