Somaliland Case: A delay in election is a delay in democracy

A woman casts her vote in the presidential election in Hargeisa, Somaliland, Nov. 13, 2017.
A woman casts her vote in the presidential election in Hargeisa, Somaliland, Nov. 13, 2017.

By: Ismail Ahmed

Somaliland took the system of democratization and exercised the multiparty system for the last couple of decades. This tiny, unrecognized de facto state, which locates   in a very volatile region hindered by prolonged political turmoil, a massive economic crisis, religious fanaticism, external interventions, and proxy wars,  had tremendously succeeded to   establish a peaceful democratic system and well-grounded security institutions.

Somaliland is commonly perceived as “the diamond in the mud”, in reference to the security and democratic status of the neighboring states. In 2002, more than fifteen political associations fairly competed to become a   national party, as the   constitution prescribed.  The majority of   these political associations were led by renowned political figures and veterans. Undoubtedly, the people had little concepts about a multiparty system and elections apart from some of the elderly people who had minor experience on elections or voted during the elections of the first civilian government of Somalia in the 1960s.

Transformation  from  informal election to  one man  one vote  election   encountered a fierce political resistance  and  skepticisms  by  some  politicians  who  viewed  that it is  too early  to  in place  a  multiparty  system.

However,   existed government  had impressively  managed  to  hold   both  political  association  elections  and  first  ever  presidential  election  in  2003   which  the  elected  president   won  a  narrow  margin.

Subsequently,   Somaliland  adopted  successive  elections (three  presidential, two  parliamentary  and  three  local  elections), these  elections  run into  challenges  and setbacks.

The  gloaming  and  glamorous   prospects   of  the country’s  democracy  was  overshadowed  by   subsequent   delays   without  proper  procedure and excuse.  Term extension, particularly   presidential tenure, results in political grievances and inflammatory outrages.

In 2008, a presidential term extension sparked political tension and raised security concerns at the time.  Prominent opposition   party members of (Kulmiye, at that time, were alleged to have mobilized a clan militia to destabilize the   national   security.  However, there was no   clear sign of any   security threats   caused   by the alleged figures. Although, the concern was at the peak. 

Currently, the unreasonable two-year   presidential and five-year   upper   house term extension have explicitly dimmed the nation’s quest for   recognition and transformation of   democracy.  Perhaps, it was   predicted by many   political academia that an unnecessary extension would occur. Giving an alert to prevent an unconstitutional extension has been the center of the debate for the past years.  This did not stop extensions to happen as habitual without clinically analyzing its political repercussions and backlash.

Argument  of   pro-extensionists   revolves  around  that  former  presidents had been  extended  their  tenures  and   current  president is indifferent from  his  predecessors. Contrarily,    anti-extensionists  view  any  sort  of  delay  to the  election  as unconstitutional  and  undemocratic unless  valid  procedures  are followed.

International  communities  and  friends  of  Somaliland   expressed their  concerns  and  distress  towards  any postponement of  elections.  Although, the combined elections held in Somaliland in 2021   had attracted the attention of international actors and brought in diplomatic gains. Thus, the ongoing  political impasse  is quite evident  to have  weakened the momentum  of  securing the  national interest  including  political  stabilization and  diplomatic  engagements.

Legalization  of  term  extension   depicts  imaginary  lines  and  political  masterpiece that   successors  will try  to  adopt  and  consider  as  legitimate  act  to  surpass their  designated  tenure.  Any  unlawful  acts diminish  the  democracy  and prompts  up  insecurity,  conflict  strive  and   endless  political  grievances.

The social cleavage and political divergences are deep-rooted into tribes. In   Somaliland, politics and clannism are almost impossible   to be separated.  As  a result  of this,  prolongation of  election  terms   can  flare up  a  conflict  at  any  time  unless  rational   decisions  are  reached.  One  of the  biggest  threats  towards  the peace  and  decades  of  security  in Somaliland   is,  the   intermingling   of   traditional   elders   with   politics   who   have  undeniable  role  on  clan  discretion.

However, there is  a long history  and  attested  resolution   which  Somaliland  has  implemented  to  overcome  any   kind  of  latent and  confrontational   conflicts  in the  past  and  that  is  national  consensus.  This is  the  secrecy  behind  Somaliland’s  marvelous  peace  and  security  within a  conflict  ravaged    region of HOA.

To sum up, it is mandatory to learn   from old mistakes and political torts.  Realistically, there  has to be  a constitutional   review  to avoid  delays  in  elections  and  comprehensively  understand  when  it is  legitimate to  make  extension.

About the Author

Ismail Ahmed holds a Master Degree in international relations and MA in   leadership and Management. He is serving as Executive Director of Somaliland Journalists Association since 2021.For the past   10 years, he has been a regular lecturer of   politics , development  studies  and  social  work related courses. .

Ismail   has  enormous  experience  on  elections  and  electoral  process  and  served as  senior  staff  of  elections  in  Somaliland. He is also   a political commentator on   HOA affairs. Twitter :- @ismaelAhmmad

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