Somaliland: Swerves on the Road

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Launch of election report as Somaliland continues to drive its developing democracy forward

IEO Press Statement for immediate release –

LONDON (Somalilandsun) – International election observation mission to Somaliland’s local council elections, assembled by Progressio, University College London and Somaliland Focus (UK), launches final report highlighting the “swerves on the road” as Somaliland continues to drive its developing democracy forward.

The 50-strong team from 20 countries was invited by Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) to observe voting on and before polling day, November 28th 2012. Six months on, the public release of the mission report notes that once again, Somalilanders displayed their dedication to the unique democratic spirit they have crafted from their challenging history.

In particular, there was real progress in inclusion of youth and women: the election of 10 female candidates represents a huge step forward. Yet concerns expressed immediately following polling day – especially over observers’ reports of widespread attempts at multiple and underage voting – remain real.

While definiInternational observers among those allowed free movementtive information on which political actors gained the greatest advantage is lacking, there is sufficient evidence to state that successful attempts at multiple voting occurred at very significant levels. Thus, although the report declares the election process reasonably free and credible, it must fall short of describing it as fair.

Perceived unfairness gave rise to post-poll tensions in several regions and protests resulting in a number of deaths. While this real and substantial threat to peace and stability has been resolved to a degree by political leaders urging calm upon their supporters, deep rifts remain and have assumed clan as well as political dimensions, with the potential to damage Somaliland’s democratisation.

Thus, the report repeats the recommendation made immediately following polling day: that Somaliland must urgently adopt a robust system of voter registration, so that future elections can be approached effectively and with confidence.

Yet, despite the reservations and some genuine grievances, there were many gains from Somaliland’s 2012 elections: with three political parties selected, Somaliland now has a clear road ahead into the next stage of its electoral cycle. The mission urges all stakeholders to continue to work to resolve difficulties using the methods of negotiation and reconciliation that have worked so well in the past in Somaliland.

Progressio’s Dr Steve Kibble, the mission’s joint co-ordinator, said: “The road to democracy is never easy. Our report is we hope a fair reflection of the process with its ‘swerves’ as well as its forward strides. We look to further engagement with the people of Somaliland in all the facets of building a stable, progressive democracy that reflects the views and aspirations of all citizens.”

Dr Michael Walls of UCL added: “These elections underline the remarkable achievement of Somaliland in institutionalising a system of multi-party democracy that incorporates elements of Somali customary system, while also highlighting the critical challenges ahead. How Somalilanders respond will have implications far beyond the borders of Somaliland or the Somali Horn. We applaud the progress to date, while urging the people of Somaliland to continue to support a process which will remain challenging.”

“Swerves On The Road” will be launched at University College London, Room G03, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AP at 5:30pm on June 11th 2013. A panel discussion featuring Dr Gabrielle Lynch (University of Warwick), Richard Dowden (Royal African Society), Ayan Mahamoud (Kayd Somali Arts and Culture) and Dr Michael Walls (University College London) will be followed by a reception and a photographic exhibition by Kate Stanworth, the mission’s photographer. Further launch events in Somaliland in June and in August as part of the Hargeisa Book Fair will follow.

Addenda

1. Somaliland declared unilateral independence from Somalia in 1991 following the collapse of Somalia’s government. It remains internationally unrecognised.

2. A team of 50 observers from 20 countries was assembled by Progressio, the Development Planning Unit at University College London and Somaliland Focus (UK) to observe Somaliland’s local elections on November 28th 2012. The mission follows on from observations of Somaliland’s inaugural local elections in 2002, followed by the parliamentary elections in 2005, judged by observers as “basically free and fair”, and the presidential election in 2010, which saw an orderly transfer of power and was judged “a peaceful expression of popular will”.

3. The 2012 mission covered almost 20 per cent of more than 1,700 polling stations in 15 of the 21 districts across Somaliland in which voting took place.

4. The mission was invited by Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), and funded by Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID). We presented a post-poll interim report to the NEC and donors following polling day in early December 2012.

5. A pre-election assessment of the conditions for the local elections took place in 2012. http://www.progressio.org.uk/sites/progressio.org.uk/files/Preparing-for-local-elections-Sld-2012.pdf

6. For more information about Progressio, please see www.progressio.org.uk and about Somaliland Focus, see www.somalilandfocus.org.uk.

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