Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Somaliland ballot back on track

Angus Reid Global Scan), 12 Sept. 2005-- Somaliland encompasses the territory of the former British Somaliland, and seceded from Somalia in 1991. The country of 2.5 million is yet to be recognized internationally. In 1992, a national conference selected Muhammad Ibrahim Egal as president. Egal was eventually re-appointed to a new five-year term in 1997, and picked Dahir Riyale Kahin as his vice-president.

The area’s residents overwhelmingly approved a new constitution in May 2001.Egal died in 2002, and 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, 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 will field candidates: the governing Unity, Democracy and Independence (UDUB), the Solidarity Kulmiye Party (KNMIH) and the Justice and Development Party (UCID). The government is counting on a clean and successful democratic process to make the case for international recognition. 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 Faisal Ali Waraabe has said Somaliland has "the freest press in Africa."

On Feb. 9, 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 president 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 will 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) Ahmed Ali Godir announced that voters will 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 East Sanag, the election will be limited to areas under government control. On Aug. 30, campaign activities officially began. A total of 246 candidates—including five women—are contending for the 82 House of Representatives seats.

Political Players 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 M. Silanyo - Solidarity Kulmiye Party (KNMIH) 42.07%

Faisal Ali Waraabe - Justice and Development (UCID) 15.8%

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