Monitoring Report Of Somaliland Voter Registration

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Somaliland Voter Registration Process in Somaliland
By: Center for policy analysis
On August 23rd, 2020, the Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced1 that the long-awaited Parliamentary and Local Council Elections will happen within 9 months, probably the last week of May 2021. That May 2021 has different historic significances on both Somaliland’s statehood and its democratization process. It is the 30th anniversary of Somaliland’s independence and the 20th anniversary of Somaliland’s multiparty democracy. On May 31st, 2001, 97% of Somaliland voters approved the constitution through a referendum. So, the nation moved from the clan-based power-sharing system to a multi-party democracy.

READ HERE THE FULL REPORT OF THE ELECTION MONITORING: Download

With 30 years of institutional building and 20 years of practicing a multiparty democracy, Somaliland became one of the role models for many countries in the region as it uses one of the most advanced voter registration systems in the world, holding free and fair elections and its freedom of expression comparing to the region. The other good example is, the unique governance structure of Somaliland, which is the hybrid system that is balancing the western constitutional based democracy and the local traditional system. The upper House (Guurti) of the Parliament represents the traditional system, while the Lower House is directly elected by the people. For the last 20 years, Somaliland held a constitutional referendum, three presidential Elections, two local council elections and one Parliamentary Election5. Also, Somaliland conducted three voter registrations.
On the other hand, Somaliland’s Democratization Process has areas which need to be fixed, including the Election Delays or Extensions7, marginalizing women from the decision-making platforms, etc. The Public office holders are used to remain in office beyond their elected term. For example, the extended term of the current Local Councils
expired in April 2019, but they remained without having any legitimacy or extension.
The current House of Representatives was elected in September 2005 for a five years term, but their elections were delayed 10 times. Somaliland’s young generation who was born after May 19918, did not get a chance to elect their representatives since they were not eligible to vote in the Parliamentary Election of September 20059. On the other hand, the women have the least representation in the House, with only one woman out of the 82 members.
For the last ten years, the people of Somaliland were expecting to elect their representatives, particularly women, the young generation and minority groups. Likewise, the voters were expecting to elect their local councillors for the last three years, since the original five years term of the current local councils expired in December 2017. That is why it is important to have elections this coming May of 2021.
THE 23 ELECTORAL DISTRICTS AND VOTER REGISTRATION:
On November 7th, 2020, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) Released10 the timetable of the Voter Registration, that was scheduled to start on November 29th, 2020 and to end on January 13th, 2021. NEC divided the voter registration process into four main clusters.
The Voter Registration Process was designed to register the voters who missed the 2016 voter registration, those who reached the age of voting, voters who registered last time more than one time and whose votes were cancelled. After the current four clusters of voter registration ended, it is expected that NEC also to give an opportunity to the voters who need to change their voting locations and those who lost their voter card. This second phase of voter registration will take place in a limited registration centre in the Electoral districts11. The expected third phase will be the voter card distribution to all registered voters in all registration centres of the country.
As scheduled the voter registration started on time on November 29th and ended January 13th, 2021. The Election Monitoring Office of Center for Policy Analysis was closely monitoring and observing the voter registration process, focusing on four main areas.
  1. If the NEC and Election Stakeholders are following the rules and regulations of the Elections.
  2. If the Voter Registration Process is following the Health Safety Procedures particularly the Social Distancing, Masking, etc. during the Covid19 Era.
  3. If the Citizens and voters received the required information and they can reach the voting registration stations without interference
  4. If the Election Stakeholders are exercising only their given authority in the Election Laws, including the Government, CSO, Political Parties, NEC, etc.
As NEC planned, the voter registration was kicked off on November 29th, 2020 in four clusters and it was concluded on time on January 13th, 2021. Here is some information about the four clusters with their registration centres:
  1. First Cluster of Awdal Region, Gebilay, Bali-gubadle and Salahley Districts was kicked off on November 29th, 2020 with nearly 268 Registration centres.
  2. The Second Cluster of Hargeisa and Sahil Region was begun on December 13th, 2020 with nearly 319 Registration centres.
  3. The Third Cluster Togdheer Region, Caynaba, Ceel-afweyn and Gar-adag Districts were started on December 27th, 2020 with nearly 296 Registration centres.
  4. The Fourth and last cluster of the voter registration, which includes Erigavo, Lasqoray, Badhan, Dhahar, Laascaanood, Taleh and Xudun was launched on January 10th, 2021 with nearly 324 registration centres.
THE 23 ELECTORAL DISTRICTS AND VOTER REGISTRATION:
The Election Monitoring Office of CPA recorded that NEC successfully conducted the Voter Registration in 22 Electoral Districts12 while they cancelled the 25 voter registration centres of Laasqoray District in Sanaag region due to security-related issues. In Badhan and Dhahar Electoral Districts, CPA found that the Registration Centers were placed, different locations other than the early planned and approved registration centres in these two districts. In Buuhoodle there were multiple registration centres that were cancelled. In Sool Region, the Voter Registration happened in all the Electoral Districts including Laas- caanood, Xudun, Taleex and Caynaba.
  • THE VOTER REGISTRATION TURN OUT was high in the urban areas and the registration centres of the border areas. The local communities were complaining that the four days13 of the voter registration were not sufficient, and they were requesting from NEC to extend the time. In that request, NEC extended voter registration time in some registration centres of every region/cluster from three to seven days, based on the needs in each area.
  • TECHNICAL ERRORS were recorded in some areas, related to the Electricity or the Generators, the Laptops, printers, etc. particularly the first days of the voter registration, that delayed the work of the first day, but NEC area representatives and NEC troubleshooter addressed and responded to those complaints.
THE CHALLENGES AND THE POSITIVE OUTPUT RECORDED DURING THE VOTER REGISTRATION
  1. THE FASTEST VOTER REGISTRATION PROCESS IN SOMALILAND: NEC started the Voter Registration on November 29th, 2020, and within the first 31 days, they finished the first three clusters which cover 73% or 883 out of the 1,207 voter registration centers in the country, from Lowya-caddo of Awdal Region to Ceel-afweyn and Caynaba of Sanaag and Sool Regions. In the remaining 324 voter registration centers in Sanaag and Sool Region, they finished within 14 days.
  2. A PEACEFUL VOTER REGISTRATION PROCESS: The voter registration process was one of the most peaceful voter registrations conducted in Somaliland. There were no big security incidents recorded during the voter registration process. Except a Bomb thrown to a closed voter registration center in Laas-caanood of Sool region.14
  3. GOVERNMENT SUPPORT AND THE LIMITED FUNDING OF THE INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS: for the last two decades, the International Partners played a vital role in the advancement of Somaliland’s Democratization Process. They were the main body that was supporting the Electoral Process both technically and financially even though the Somaliland government was contributing in terms of financial and security support. Now it seems that the financial and technical support of the International Partners is limited, while the role of the Executive branch to the Electoral Process is increasing day by day, due to their financial, security and technical support, that gave the executive branch a chance to influence the electoral system. On January 13th, 2021, the Minister of Interior Mohamed Kahin Ahmed15, announced that the government fully funded the voter registration process. It is good a thing that the Somaliland government to take the lead of funding its democratization process without foreign assistance, but the concern coming from the opposition parties and the civil society is that the government is taking this support advantage to influence the electoral system. During the voter registration process, the role of the government in Elections is increased including the last move that the president replaced the long-served director-general of the National Electoral Commission by a new Director16, who was holding the Secretary of the Cabinet Ministers. That step itself shows the government’s increasing influence on the electoral process.
  4. ROLE OF TRADITIONAL ELDERS has increased during the Voter Registration Awareness and Preparation of the upcoming Elections. The Traditional System is the main body that is now pre-selecting the candidates of the House of Representatives and the Local Councils. Those pre- nominated candidates with traditional leaders carried out voter registration awareness in their respective areas/districts. This is a very alarming issue in two ways.
    1. Somaliland moved from a clan-based power-sharing system to multiparty democracy, but now it seems that the role of the traditional system is coming back into the democratic institutions since they have a louder voice in our election system.
    2. Since the House of Representatives rejected the Quota for Women and Minority Groups, and since now the male-dominated traditional system has a big influence in the voter registration campaign and selection of the candidates, it can be another big challenge for women to be elected in the upcoming Parliament and Local Councils.
  5. COVID19 HEALTH SAFETY PROTOCOLS: Most of the Voter Registration we collected Data from, were not fully following the Covid19 health safety Protocols including the Social Distancing, Masking, etc. NEC put signs and instructions in most of those registration centres, telling both the NEC Polling Station team and the Voters going to register to follow the COVID19 Health Safety Protocols.
  6. DROUGHTS IN EASTERN REGIONS: During the Preparation of the Voter Registration, the local communities in eastern regions particularly Togdheer region, complained about droughts in their areas, while they mentioned that the eligible voters in rural areas crossed the border between Somaliland and Ethiopia to seek water and grass for their animals. The Traditional leaders from the Togdheer region requested from the government and election stakeholders to postpone the voter registration. But, the Election stakeholders17 including the government, political parties, and NEC, decided that the voter registration to happen as scheduled in every region. The traditional leaders18 of Togdheer region, then called their eligible voters in their region to register and to carry out voter registration awareness.
  7. VOTER EDUCATION WAS NOT EFFECTIVE DUE TO LIMITED RESOURCES: Most of the Regions we collected the data from were complaining about the limited voter education awareness and the methods used for the awareness-raising. There were self-organized committees from the clans and candidates who were conducting voter education awareness. NEC Members, Political Parties and Government Officials were also taking part in the awareness-raising of the voter education, through visiting the voter registration centres and meeting the local communities.

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