President Hassan Sheikh “We congratulate Somaliland for their fledgling democracy”
Hargeisa (KON) - Somaliland people voted peacefully as more than 50 international observers monitored municipal elections on Wednesday that appeared to be one of the most democratic in the region.
Steve Kibble, the mission’s co-coordinator told VOA: “We saw pretty free and fair elections, which contrast with some of the neighbors, it must be said.”
The landmark election marked the fifth direct vote in Somaliland since 2002 and the second municipal elections. Somaliland is not internationally recognized but is widely described as the leading democracy in the greater Horn of Africa region.
Wednesday’s vote involved 1,700 polling stations, 7 political organisations, 21 districts across six regions and nearly 2,400 candidates.
Voters said Wednesday they wanted to demonstrate just how far Somaliland has come over the past decade by holding a transparent and peaceful vote.
“Not yet perfected but the seeds of democracy have been harvested and served,” said Jama Duale, 20, a university student waiting in a line that snaked outside a polling centre in Hargeisa.
The election concluded peacefully with all ballot boxes successfully returning to the office of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
Political association Haqsoor, Dalsan, Waddani, Ummada and Rays stood against the only two political parties, ruling Kulmiye and opposition UCID. The third party, also the former ruling UDUB, disintegrated months ahead of the vote due to internal strife and after failing to meet requirements and were disqualified by the NEC.
This is an election only unique to Somaliland in the sense that electoral bill dictates only the three with most votes will receive political party status. They will be eligible to compete in the next Presidential and parliamentary elections.
The election was hailed as democratic and and congratulatory messages began pouring in from the region. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the newly appointed president of Somalia offered his congratulations to Somaliland and its government and signalled his hope the two will continue their dialogue.
“We congratulate the people and government of Somaliland for their fledgling democracy. They are at a stage where people are free to choose their leaders,” he said from Djibouti while speaking to Somali language VOA.
He added the vote was victory, advanced progress and in the interest of Somali people in all over Somalia. He expressed hope other Somalis would follow and emulate Somaliland’s successful formula.
His remarks not only contradict separatist elements in Somaliland and the Puntland region but is likely to place him at odds with them. The Khaatumo separatist and Puntland region tried to sabotage and derail the vote on Wednesday claiming they were fighting for Somalia’s unity and government. But Mr. Mohamud recognizes the importance of democracy for the Somali people, who have been marred by violence, destitution and famine for two decades.
Khaatumo Separatists and Puntland have been hiding behind Mogadishu for many years and President Hassan has finally proved that they are alone in their tribal agenda.
The president equally praised the working relations between Somalia and Djibouti where he reinstated the Somali embassy. He flew out few hours later to Addis Ababa.
The results will not be known until sometime early next week and the region is closely observing. Kenya, whose presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held in March next year, had monitoring team on the ground. Ethiopia, Somaliland’s closest ally was also present as well as South Africa and Uganda. Civil servant teams from Mogadishu and Puntland were also present to see first hand Somaliland’s expanding democracy.
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