13 November 2017

Somalia: Somaliland Goes to the Polls

Photo: Rooble Mohamed/Twitter
Stones used to reserve places in queues at Somaliland polling stations.

Somaliland, an autonomous and self-determined territory, northwest of Somalia goes to the polls today to elect a new leader after a seven-year wait. Three candidates are competing for the post to lead the region of around 3.5 million people.

Somaliland is an autonomous self-determined region, northwest of Somalia. It is going to the polls for presidential elections today after a seven year wait.

Elections in Somaliland are to be held every five years. However, this will be its first election since 2010, after it was delayed due to drought, voter registration problems and lack of funding.

On the ballot paper are three candidates: Faysal Ali Warabe of UCID party, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi of Waddani party and Muse Bihi Abdi, of the ruling Kulmiye party. It will be the first time for the Waddani party to contest and the third for UCID and Kulmiye parties.

The three candidates had the chance to sell their promises to the people of Somaliland in a debate on October 19, allowing them to scrutinise these promises and policies.

The incumbent, Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud is not going for a re-election.

The campaign period ended on Friday last week ahead of the elections considered high stakes.

Already the government has banned social media use to prevent hate speech and spread of fake news. The ban, affecting Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram among others, will be lifted once the election results have been declared.

Human rights groups have criticised the move by the elections commission, stating that the internet is crucial in development and democratisation process. Human Rights Watch stated that instead of banning the social media sites over fake news concerns, the commission should disseminate information accurately and to discourage violence.

The country's election commission will be using a voter registration system, which uses eye biometric to identify voters before they cast their ballot so as to prevent fraud.

Election system is one-person one-vote unlike in Somalia where a delegation selected by clan leaders voted for the president.

A number of local and international election observers will report on the polling day.

Somaliland joined with Somalia in 1960. In 1991, it seceded from Somalia following the ousting of the Said Barre. Later in 2001, the country voted in a referendum to uphold its self-declared independence.

Although it has been more than 25 years of self-independence, the region is still not recognised as such and the Somali government still lays claim on it.

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