The upcoming elections are very crucial for Somaliland’s democratization process. Somaliland succeeded in the first phase of the democratization process, but extensions and overstaying offices affected the second and third phases of Somaliland’s democratization process. In the upcoming year of 2022, it is scheduled to have the first election of the House of Elders since 1997, the fourth presidential election which is expected to be the first election to happen on time, reopening the registration of the political associations and updating Somaliland’s voter registration system. The decisions to be made and the steps to take for the coming month will shape the realization and achievements of these important electoral activities.
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Somaliland’s democratization process has been a shining example in the region of the Horn of Africa. It was conducted in eight free and fair elections, including three presidential elections (in April 2003, June 2010 and November 2017), two parliamentary elections (in September 2005 and May 2021) and three local council elections (in December 2002, November 2012 and May 2021). Somaliland’s democratization became one of the best miracles in the region and attracted the eyes of the international community when the first presidential elections happened in 2003.
Nearly half a million voters cast ballots in one of the closest polls ever conducted in Africa. After counting the votes, the incumbent president4 Daahir Rayaale Kaahin won only 80 votes over the opposition party. Nevertheless, the opposition accepted the result even though the margin was very narrow. The other good examples in Somaliland’s democratization process were, that Somaliland conducted one of the most advanced voter registration systems on the planet to counter the double voting and election fraud.
On the other hand, there was setbacks and bad lesson that affected the democratization process. The main setbacks were that the elected leaders failed to leave the office after their term expired. As a result of that, nearly 30 times were made extensions for the term of the President, the Parliament, and Local Councils. All 8th elections in Somaliland did not happen on time, and all were delayed or extended, so, the culture of extension and overstaying in the office became normal.
The president of Somaliland, Muuse Biihi Abdi, is now promising to hold the forthcoming elections on time, if that commitment is achieved, it is ending the culture of extensions and overstaying in elected offices. It will be a significant legacy and a historic milestone for the president if he successfully fulfills his commitment to holding the upcoming presidential election on time. On the other hand, the opposition parties publicly expressed their readiness for the upcoming elections.
Accordingly, the International Partners who support the Somaliland democratization processes received in Nairobi, a delegation from the Somaliland government, the members of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the leadership of the opposition parties to discuss the lessons learned on the 31st May of 2021 elections and the preparation of the upcoming elections. The international partners also welcomed the reassurance from the high-level Somaliland delegation that both the President and opposition parties remain committed to holding presidential elections next year and that funding to support the election is already being allocated in the 2022 budget.
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