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  • Somaliland: Proof That Democracy in the Horn of Africa Is Possible

    Today, citizens of Somaliland head to the polls to elect their local municipal council representatives.

    While the dysfunctional Somalia gets most of the attention in the Horn of Africa, its northern neighbor Somaliland has stood out as a success story.

    This election is the fifth direct vote in Somaliland since 2002, but is the first election of local councilors, a move that the International Republican Institute (IRI) says coincides with the central government’s initiative to decentralize government.

    The election will also determine the government’s three major political parties. According to law, only three political parties are allowed to govern, as this lessens the prospect of the population dividing itself according to clan and/or region affiliation. Somaliland’s three dominating political parties are the UDUB, UCID, and KULMIYE. However, they will have to compete with UMADDA, DALSAN, RAYS, WADANI, and XAQSOOR. While the UCID and the KULMIYE are favorites, the UDUB will not be participating. In September, the UDUB accused the National Election Commission of partisan bias and withdrew its candidacy.

    The election is not without its pitfalls. As IRI notes, there will be no voter roll, increasing the chances of voter fraud. Somalilanders will also vote for candidates on an open-list system rather than a political party. This raises practical challenges, as the ballots will list all of the candidates by name, number, and (as has traditionally been used) a symbol for Somaliland’s largely illiterate population.

    The U.K.-based charity Progressio notes that in Hargeisa District alone, there could be up to 225 candidates on the ballot. Furthermore, in the counting process, if a ballot is rendered void (e.g., two candidates are selected for the same position), the vote will still count—but for the candidate’s political party.

    The law stipulates that the victorious parties must garner at least 20 percent of the vote. As this is unlikely to happen (because there are seven parties competing), a ranking system will be used. The results of the percentages that the parties have gained in each region will be given ranking numbers, and the three winners will be selected through the ranking system of the votes cast in the six regions based on proportional results.

    Neither Somaliland’s election system nor the government as a whole is perfect. But 10 years after its first referendum, the government has proven itself effective, and more importantly, Somalilanders approve overwhelmingly of the democracy they helped put together. According to IRI’s June 2012 public opinion survey, 86 percent of people think Somaliland is headed in the right direction, and 80 percent of respondents stated that they considered Somaliland a “full democracy” or a “democracy, but with minor problems.”

    Somaliland’s access to the governing process via free and fair elections has unified its diverse communities in a way that numerous governments in Mogadishu have failed to achieve. Moving forward, Somalia’s new leaders have a lot to learn from their northern neighbor.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to Somaliland: Proof That Democracy in the Horn of Africa Is Possible

    1. Guled says:

      The whole "Somaliland" project is nothing more than one tribe's wishful thinking in dismembering Somalia – and the rest of Africa – along tribal lines. This propaganda is expected of members of the Isaaq tribe who have been making persistent effort to rally support from unsuspecting foreigners in their efforts.

      The reality in Hargaysa, Somalia is demonstrably different than what's written here. I have lived there for many years and always laugh whenever I read articles like this. People in Hargaysa take pride in "fooling" unsuspecting targets.

      • Jessica says:

        You are deeply mistaken my friend. Democracy is thriving in Somaliland because many tribes are involved in the current municipal election. I can tell by reading your post that you are definitely tribalistic! Somaliland is beyond all of that nonsense.

    2. Thanks for the article… we here in Somaliland would love to see the international community to have more tangible and concrete respond other than well done and continue doing this or that :D …. Hope to see one day my Somaliland flag presented in the UN as a recognized democratic country …

    3. John says:

      Another milestone for the people of the republic of Somaliland.

    4. This was great moment for the people of Somaliland, and they really showed what they deserve from the International Community. well done guys.

    5. Hershey says:

      Conservatives should champion Somaliland's cause. It falls in line with what majority of freedom loving Republicans believe in, rule of law, elections and limited government of the people by the people for the people. Stop sending aid to failed state Somalia and prop up those willing to help themselves.

    6. Yeah. We dont want Aid. We want recognition so that Investors are given opportunity.

    7. Darkcloth says:

      Keep moving forward Somaliland…we americans stand with those who say no to violance and yes to Peace and democratic rule

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