Somaliland General Elections: A Nation’s Decision

FILE - Woman casts her ballot in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. (Credit: Kate Stanworth) FILE - Woman casts her ballot in Somaliland municipal elections, Nov. 28, 2012. (Credit: Kate Stanworth)

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 following the outbreak of the war. The regional administration, however, lacks international recognition as an independent state. Talks between Somaliland and Somalia continued in early 2015 but stalled in March amid disagreements between the two countries and the fact Somalia is not ready to admit the existence of Somaliland.

In May 2015, Somaliland’s upper legislative chamber, the Guurti, announced that presidential and parliamentary elections would be postponed until 2017 and extended the current government’s term by two years. This was allegedly owing to the unpreparedness of the country’s national elections committee. Incumbent President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud Silanyo’s approval of this move was later upheld by a court decision, officially delaying elections – which were postponed until March 2017. Opposition parties expressed concern that the government was delaying election preparations, especially voter registration, in order to extend Silanyo’s term but later on the opposition together with the current government accepted the delay for a logic matters.

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has adopted a well-coordinated and improved system of IRIS biometric technology which was used for the first time in 2016-2017 voter registration in Somaliland. The technology used by NEC to register eligible voters has successfully identified and disallowed voters that attempted to register more than one time in all the districts and regions of the country. The technology of IRIS biometric system has replaced the fingerprint biometric system that has been exercised in 2008-2009 voter registration, which was used only for the presidential elections of 2010.

Let me in a very short way explain the advantage and disadvantage of this new system in Somaliland;

  • Advantages
    • Each biometric technology has its pros and cons. Their respective performance must take into account the effort required to capture biometric data, the level of intrusiveness, the cost, and the degree of precision and reliability in the verification of voters’ identity. The environment in which the technology is going to be used is also paramount to appreciate the true value of the various biometric technologies.
    • Iris Biometric Technology has:
      • Great quality information
      • Excellent reliability
      • Real twins identifiable
    • Disadvantages
      • No matter which biometric system is used, the introduction of new technologies in electoral processes requires addressing a series of issues.
      • The technology must be adapted to the environment in which it is used.
      • The new technology must be suitable, that is to say compatible with the environment in which it is implemented. There are several criteria to assess the appropriateness of introducing technical innovations into the electoral process in a given environment.
      • The suitability of the introduction of biometric technology is defined by:
        • Its cost-effectiveness,
        • Its easiness with regard to its daily management
        • Its modularity, flexibility and interoperability,
        • Its standardization,
        • Its permanence.
      • Using Iris technology alone may prove to be difficult
      • It should be used with other forms of identification or as an alternative for people who cannot use fingerprint recognition
      • There are risks for using this technology if the country has lack of finance, security and effective operation
      • Other biometric technology is already used around the world and has proved effective.

In conclusion Somaliland’s current government together with the opposition parties and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the nation of Somaliland are committed to give this nation a transparent, free and fair elections god willing and prove to the rest of the world another lesson in democracy and peaceful elections.

Many voters share the candidates’ and president’s hopes for statehood and expect the election to bring Somaliland more respect from the International Community.

Let us not only make this election means a bridge to international recognition but as well lets show the world how this nation respects and honor having a peaceful election, coherency between the nation and the finest practicing of democracy.

Nimo Osman Abdi

The author has obtained BA in LLB from University of Hargeisa, MA in International Relations from University of Hargeisa (UoH). She can be reached

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Horndiplomat editorial policy.

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