The UK-based team coordinating election observers for the delayed presidential elections in the internationally unrecognised Republic of Somaliland, have welcomed the recent announcement by the country’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) that the vote has officially been scheduled for 26 June 2010.
The development agency Progressio, the Development Planning Unit at University College London (UCL) and Somaliland Focus UK welcomed the news.
The three bodies declared: “After a string of delays since the election was first called, we welcome the NEC’s announcement of the date and the decree signed on 16 May by the country’s President Daahir Rayaale Kaahin which confirms the vote will now go ahead on 26 June.”
Due to disputes around the voter registration process, Somaliland’s planned poll was continually pushed back. The election observers team notes that the situation on the ground has improved considerably in recent months.
In September 2009, all three of Somaliland’s political parties signed a six-point agreement which paved the way for a resolution to the electoral stalemate. It included a guarantee from the existing government that a further extension of office would not be sought and that the disputed and delayed process of voter registration would recommence.
The agreement was subsequently approved by Somaliland’s upper house, the Guurti (House of Elders). In addition, all parties signed a code of conduct for the election campaign, as did domestic Somaliland media. A memorandum of understanding has also been signed between the international election observation team and the National Election Commission.
The observation team notes: “These developments have dramatically improved the relationship between the NEC and the donors who are providing funding and technology for the voter registration process and the election itself. We are heartened by what has been remarkable progress on many of the key issues; we are keen to take our observation mission forward – even though the timeframe for completing all necessary logistics to ensure a free and fair election campaign, especially security aspects, is tight.”
Progressio’s country manager in Somaliland, Dr Adan Abokor, said: “At long last the people of Somaliland have a clear timetable for this presidential vote which will come as a relief to many."
Abokor added: "We commend the commitment shown by the national government, political parties, the media and the NEC to replicating the success of previous elections - and to the democratic process as a whole. We urge all stakeholders to come together to ensure a legitimate, free and fair presidential poll and consolidate Somaliland’s legitimacy as a democratic entity in one of the world’s most troubled regions.”
Somaliland's Presidential elections were previously scheduled for March/April 2008, December 2008, March 2009 and September 2009.
The country is situated in Somalia's northwest. It declared unilateral independence from the failed Somali state in 1991 and has since been a haven of relative peace whilst violence and instability has characterised Somalia, its capital Mogadishu and more recently the Gulf of Aden.
Progressio's involvement in the election mission follows its leadership of the international observation team for Somaliland's inaugural parliamentary elections in 2005, judged by observers as "basically free and fair".
Progressio, formerly the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR), has been working with local communities in Somaliland since 1995 by placing skilled workers with local organisations specialising in advocating for the rights of women, youth and people with disabilities as well as supporting basic health service provision and people living with HIV and AIDS. It also actively supports progress towards democratisation and stabilising the country.
The Development Planning Unit (DPU) is an international centre specialising in academic teaching, practical training, research and consultancy in the field of urban and regional development, planning, and management. DPU is part of University College London (UCL).
Somaliland Focus (UK) was established in London in 2005 with the aim of helping to raise awareness amongst decision-makers in the UK and elsewhere about the territory of Somaliland and to support Somaliland's progress towards state-building and social and economic development.