Somaliland: A Democracy in Action
By; Axmed Kheyre
As Somaliland gears up for the 2009 Presidential and local assembly elections with the resumption of the voter registration programme after the recent terrorist attacks it seems to be good time to review the last partliamentary elections in 2005.
The following is an Angus Reid Global scan from 2005.
Election Date: September 29, 2005
Abstract: At stake: House of Representatives
At stake: House of Representatives
Somaliland encompasses the territory of the former British Somaliland. The country of 2.5 million is yet to be recognized internationally.
In 1992, a national conference selected Muhammad Ibrahim Egal as president. Mr. Egal was eventually re-appointed to a new five-year term in 1997, and picked Mr.Dahir Riyale Kahin as his vice-president. The country’s residents overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in May 2001.
Mr. Egal died in 2002, and Mr.Kahin took over as head of government. The presidential, legislative and local elections that were to be held that same year were postponed until 2003. Kahin was eventually re-elected in a very close contest.
2005 House of Representatives Election
On May 18, 2004, President Dahir Riyale Kahin announced that the long-awaited legislative election would take place on Mar. 29, 2005. The mandate of all current lawmakers was extended. Three main political parties were to field candidates: the governing Unity, Democracy and Independence (UDUB), the Solidarity Kulmiye Party (KNMIH) and the Justice and Development Party (UCID).
The government was counting on a clean and successful democratic process to make the case for international recognition. Mr. Kahin has repeatedly requested the United Nations (UN) and the African Union to acknowledge Somaliland’s independence “according to the charter of the UN.”
In October 2004, Kulmiye issued a statement questioning Kahin’s government, and claiming Somaliland is facing “the usual trend to take steps towards dictatorship and the destruction of democracy, instead of selling our achievements to the international community.” UCID leader Mr. Faisal Ali Waraabe has said Somaliland has “the freest press in Africa.”
On Feb. 9, Mr. Kahin visited South Africa and praised the March parliamentary ballot as a pivotal step in the process of a “long and difficult transition from a traditional, clan-based political system to a stable multi-party democracy in Somaliland.”
In mid-March, the election was postponed indefinitely. On Apr. 2, the legislative branch passed a new electoral law after several disagreements between Kahin and opposition lawmakers. The central issues were the lack of adequate census data to actually delineate districts, and the controversial use of the clan system-originally developed in 1960-to elect parliamentarians.
As part of the compromise agreement, polling stations were to be set-up in regional capitals, a fact that could lead to the disenfranchisement of many voters.
In August, the election was re-scheduled for Sept. 29. National Electoral Commission (NEC) member Mr. Ahmed Ali Godir announced that voters would be able to cast their ballots in 982 polling stations. Godir said there is “high interest of the people (…) and the expectation that Somalilanders living in Djibouti might cross the border to vote.” In Sool and Eastern Sanag, the election would be limited to areas under government control.
On Aug. 30, campaign activities officially began. A total of 246 candidates-including seven women-were registered to contend for the 82 House of Representatives seats.
According to early reports, both the ruling party and the two opposition parties had equal access to state media outlets for promotional purposes. The International Cooperation for Development (ICD) committed a team of 20 electoral observers.
The three contending political organizations made the international recognition of Somaliland the key issue in their platforms.
In mid-September, opposition UCID leader Mr. Faisal Ali Warabe pledged to “introduce compulsory primary education for children between the ages of 7-14” and to “provide free health service for nationals.” Opposition Kulmiye deputy chairman Mr. Abdirahman Aw Ali urged for a high turnout, saying, “I call on those communities who intend to boycott the election not to do so”.
Finance minister and UDUB member, Mr. Awil Ali Duale expressed satisfaction with the democratic process, declaring, “Our elections are more transparent than many countries in the region. I hope the world will give us the right of recognition. Recognizing Somaliland is like promoting democracy in Africa.”
On Sept. 22, Somaliland police seized fake ballot papers inside the area’s main airport. Officials said the materials “originated from a foreign country” other than Britain, where the NEC hired a firm to print the actual ballots.
On Sept. 24, interior minister, Mr. Ismail Aden announced a crackdown on terrorism suspects, saying, “I have instructed the clerics from neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia to leave the country if they do not have legal papers and are not genuine businessmen registered by relevant authorities. Those who have commercial interests here may stay as long as they respect the laws of the land but others must leave as soon as possible.” The decision follows the arrest of five suspected al-Qaeda members.
On Sept. 27, international observer Mr. Steve Kibble of the London-based Catholic Institute for International Relations expressed confidence in a free and fair ballot, declaring, “The provisions against double voting are quite high-tech. They have a pretty good system of ensuring nobody will vote twice.”
Voting took place on Sept. 29. President Kahin declared, “I hope this will open the door for recognition. I pray for the election to end in peace and wish my party, as well as my opponents, success.” UCID chair Warabe said the ballot “is the key for Somaliland to get recognition and join the club of nations.”
On Oct. 3, Mr. Kibble called the election “a great achievement for the democratization of Somaliland,” adding, “We were pleased by the manner in which the election was managed by the NEC. There were small shortcomings, which should be improved on, but nothing which could compromise the outcome of the election in anyway has taken place.”
On Oct. 10, election observer, Mr. Mark Bradbury expressed satisfaction with the high female participation rate, saying, “On the positive side it means that women are able to exercise their democratic rights. It is a step forward from the situation before, when men were nominated to the previous parliament on the basis of clan systems in which women virtually had no say at all.”
Official results were released on Oct. 15. The governing Unity, Democracy and Independence (UDUB) secured 33 seats in the 82-member House of Representatives. The Solidarity Kulmiye Party (KNMIH) finished second with 28 lawmakers, followed by Justice and Development (UCID) with 21 legislators. Two of the seven women candidates were elected.
UCID leader Warabe said his party has “accepted the parliamentary results,” adding, “We decided to overlook minor shortcomings for the sake of the country’s interests, the important one being the quest for international recognition.” Kulmiye’s chair, Mr. Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud “Silanyo” said voters gave “the greater support to the opposition in the ballot boxes.”
President: Dahir Riyale Kahin – UDUB
Vice-president: Ahmed Yusuf Yassin – UDUB
The president is elected to a five-year term by popular vote.
Legislative Branch: The Baarlamaanka (Parliament) has two chambers.
The Golaha Wakiilada (House of Representatives) has 82 members, elected to five-year terms.
The Golaha Guurtida (House of Elders) accommodates traditional leaders, and has 82 members.
Results of Last Election:
President – Apr. 14, 2003
Dahir Riyale Kahin – Unity, Democracy and Independence – UDUB 42.08%
Ahmed Mohamed Mohamed – Solidarity Kulmiye Party -KNMIH 42.07%
Faisal Ali Warabe – Justice and Development Party – UCID 15.08%
House of Representatives – Sept. 29, 2005
UDUB 33 Seats
Kulmiye 28 Seats
UCID 21 Seats
The opposition parties gained majority in the house of the representatives and subsequently elected a Speaker from UCID and two deputy speakers from KULMIYE and one from UCID.