Somalia: Somaliland to hold long-delayed parliamentary election
HARGEISA, Somalia - Polling stations will be opened in Somaliland on Monday, subsequently paving way for over 1 million people to choose their preferred MPs and civic leaders, but with the main focus being on the former, given that the current legislators have been in office since 2005.
The current civic leaders were elected in 2012 but the secessionist region still practices a clan-based model, which gives little democratic space. The Elections Commission [NEC] has already exuded confidence that Monday's [tomorrow] elections will be "free and fair".
But fresh from signing a historical deal with the opposition over the management of delayed elections, Villa Somalia seems to have shifted focus to upcoming local polls in Somaliland, a region that claimed self-independence from Somalia in 1991, and which runs a parallel government.
Despite conflicting ideologies between Hargeisa and Mogadishu, Villa Somalia, or simply the presidency, seems to be keenly following the unfolding electoral process in the secessionist state, which lacks international recognition for 30 years.
Ironically, in Mogadishu on Thursday, two senior politicians, Abdi Hashi who is the speaker of the Senate, and Mahdi Gulaid, the Deputy Prime Minister in the federal government, signed an agreement on elections of Somaliland representatives to the federal parliament.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, whose term expired on Feb 8, has been keen to reunite the two parties, but his efforts are yet to bear fruits. In the agreement that was signed on Thursday, both parties agreed to push for reconciliation by December 2022.
Already, Somaliland has dispatched a host of security officers to the 2,709 polling stations across the country to monitor the civic and parliamentary elections, which will kick off tomorrow [Monday, May 31]. Final preparations have been done, officials said.
"NEC has today organized and sent off more than a thousand policemen to the Polling Stations in Hargeisa. The Vice-Chair of NEC has spoken to the Security forces and indicated the important role they are to play for ensuring the security of the Elections," the electoral commission said.
Most observers are now in Somaliland but it's not clear where or to whom they will report to. Notably, there are representatives from the European Union, a major financial partner of Somaliland and Somalia at large, who are led by Nicolas Berlanga, the EU ambassador to Somalia.
And it's the presence of Uganda's former opposition leader Col. Kizza Besigye and former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma which could raise eyebrows. Mr. Koroma met the region's President Muse Bihi Abdi, a former Air Force Commander with the Somali National Army.
"Today [Saturday], high-level delegates from Africa arrived at Hargeisa. The members of the mission are including the former president of Sierra Leone, Leaders of several African political parties, election experts, journalists, academics, and others," Mustafe Mohamed Dahir, the NEC Vice-Chair said in a tweet.
The Somaliland House of Representatives is expected to have 82 members, while the local council is expected to be 212 local council members. Three parties; Kulmiye which is the ruling party, Wadani, and UCID are expected to engage in cutthroat competition, analysts say.
At least 1 million voters are expected to engage in the historic exercise which would see the region make an important communication to the world. There has been a decline in the number of residents in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa in the last 24hrs, as they have traveled to other areas to vote, local media reported.
The main competition is expected to center around the Kulmiye party of President Muse Bihi Abdi and the Wadani party of Abdirahman Irro and UCID of Faisal Ali Warabe, which had been pushing for polls. Last year, authorities in Hargeisa detained Wadani leaders following protests over delayed elections.
In the past month, politicians have been traversing the region in pursuit of votes as parties seek to control the House of the People and civil councils ahead of presidential elections. Kulmiye party is keen to win the majority and even involved the president in the campaigns.
Despite the progress in holding elections, Somaliland's record on human rights has often been put on notice. Dozens of journalists and opposition figures have previously faced detention without trial and those who subscribe to Mogadishu leadership are often intimidated.
The breakaway region is fighting for international recognition, citing security and democracy as topical reasons for stability in the Horn of Africa. Only Taiwan, a secessionist state of China which recognizes Somaliland with the two regions establishing consulates in their respective territories.