5 September 2017, London
With just over two months until the Republic of Somaliland’s sixth nationwide election, British-Somalilanders across the UK are preparing to support the democratic process in their second home country. The presidential election, scheduled for 13 November 2017, will be the country’s third, after those that took place in 2010 and 2003. Other popular elections have included those of the Somaliland House of Representatives in 2005 and two nationwide local elections held in 2002 and 2012.
All of Somaliland’s elections have been adjudged by both international and local observers as having been fair and free to a level that surpasses electoral contests in any neighbouring country. The 2003 presidential election was decided by a very narrow margin of votes, an outcome that was respected by all sides. The democratisation process thus continues, even given the recent challenging drought conditions. The electoral voter registration has covered all the regions of the country including the far eastern districts of Sool and Sanaag regions.
Somaliland’s constitutionally mandated three political parties have fielded well-known figures as candidates. As incumbent President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud ‘Silaanyo’ is not seeking a second term, former minister Mr Muse Bihi was elected the presidential candidate for the ruling KULMIYE party (tr. The Peace, Unity and Development party), while Mr Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Irro’ (former Speaker of the House of Representatives) is the candidate of Waddani party (tr. National party) and Mr Faisal Ali Warabe, veteran party leader, is the candidate of UCID party (tr. Justice and Welfare party).
Because of the long historical ties between the UK and the Republic of Somaliland and the large population of British-Somalilanders, Somaliland presidential elections are of considerable interest in the UK. Dual citizens of Somaliland and the UK are key figures in all three political parties, and pre-election campaigns are already in full swing in both countries. Many more British-Somalilanders will be making the trip to Somaliland this November, either in order to vote, if registered, or to monitor the election.
The upcoming November election will be one of the first national elections to utilise a ground-breaking iris-recognition biometric voter registration system in the region. This system will surely enhance the legitimacy of the polls, but additional support will be required.
The UK Government has already provided financial assistance for the voter registration process and has recently announced support for an international Election Observation Mission, which will be sending a multinational group of around 60 observers. As ever, Somalilanders will welcome the international observers with open arms and remain keen to remind the world that 26 years after the rebirth of the Republic of Somaliland, they are committed to continuing building a peaceful, democratic and prosperous independent state.
Though as yet internationally unrecognised, the Republic of Somaliland is a de facto independent state of four million people in the Horn of Africa, which at independence on 26 June 1960 changed from being the British Somaliland Protectorate (1884 – 1960) to the independent State of Somaliland. Somaliland and Somalia, which became independent in July 1960, then formed a union and became the Somali Republic. That union, which was aimed at bringing about the unification of the three other Somali-inhabited territories of the Horn failed and ended with a dictatorial government that committed systematic human rights abuses including the indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of Somalilanders, and the bombing and complete destruction of Hargeisa, along with substantial damage to other major towns in the late 1980s.
In May 1991, with the collapse of the dictatorship, the people of Somaliland decided to reclaim their independence. 26 years have passed since then, during which Somaliland has built a peaceful democratic, stable state, with a constitution approved through national referendum, and a state consisting of executive, bicameral legislative, and judicial arms. The Republic of Somaliland has a presidential system of government, making presidential elections particularly important.
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