Friday, September 30, 2005

Elections in Somaliland appear credible

Hargeisa - Residents of Somaliland voted on Thursday in the first multiparty parliamentary elections since the region separated from Somalia more than a decade ago.

Politicians and residents hope the poll will boost Somaliland's chances of gaining international recognition.The region's three political parties have fielded 246 candidates to compete for seats in the 82-member legislature.

Somaliland has had a parliament since 1991, but until now its members have been chosen by their clans through a process of consultation rather than voting.Somaliland is a former British colony which, in 1960, merged with the Italian colony of Somalia to form the Independent Republic of Somalia.

But it set up its own administration after breaking away from the rest of Somalia when the Horn of Africa country descended into anarchy in the early 1990s.Somaliland remained relatively peaceful and has its own security and police forces, justice system and currency - but has not succeeded in gaining international recognition.

There are about 980 polling stations in Somaliland, but it is not known how many voters there are because Somaliland does not have a voters' register, residents do not have identity cards and the region has not had a census.

Candidates from the three parties have campaigned on the issues of gaining international recognition and maintaining the region's relative peace. In order to prevent double voting, the National Electoral Commission has banned movement of people, with the exception of emergency services, observers, election officials and journalists.

Steve Kibble, the joint co-ordinator of the 76-member international observation team, said he was confident that this year's parliamentary poll would be credible. The results should be released in two weeks.


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