With results finally confirmed in Somaliland’s local elections, held on November 28th 2012, the international election observation mission assembled by Progressio, DPU and Somaliland Focus (UK) congratulates the people of Somaliland and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on a lively and enthusiastic election campaign and voting process.
However, in advance of writing our final report, to be released in mid-2013, we must also report a number of substantial concerns.
The election's aftermath has been marked by a build-up of tension over the course of a slow counting process. Once results began to be released, the NEC came under extreme pressure over disputes to results from several sides, and was subjected to a shooting attack on its headquarters in the town of Erigavo. Regrettably, post-election protests saw a number of deaths in protests in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital.
Although the NEC has now moved to confirm results, and we have been heartened by various political leaders urging their supporters to maintain peace and security when protesting, we recognise that the post-election climate remains tense.
Our post-poll concerns follow those we expressed immediately following polling day, when we noted that observers reported attempts at multiple and underage voting and what appeared to be attempts to mobilise voters to engage in these attempts. While observers also noted polling station staff attempting to prevent such activity, such reports pose concerns for the integrity of Somaliland's electoral process.
Now, a month on from voting, it is important that disputes around the election outcome are peacefully settled. Without peaceful settlement of disputes, Somaliland's admirable democratic tradition may be damaged. We urge all Somalilanders to respect the electoral laws and procedures, so that future elections can be approached effectively and with confidence.
Specifically, we repeat the recommendation we made immediately following polling day: in advance of the next elections, we call for Somaliland to adopt a robust system for voter/citizen registration, in order to improve confidence in the electoral process.
In closing, we would like to highlight the many positives around this election: once again, Somalilanders showed how dedicated they are to the unique democratic spirit they have crafted from their challenging history. In particular, we are delighted to note real progress in inclusion of youth and women in the process: the apparent election of ten female candidates represents a huge step forward, and we look forward to further progress on this front.
Dr Michael Walls, the mission's joint co-ordinator, said "Somaliland has made enormous progress in achieving a difficult transition to a form of representative democracy. We have long been impressed with that process, and call on all Somalilanders to maintain their commitment to a peaceful form of democratic and participatory decision-making."
Photo: Women queuing to vote in the local elections (© Kate Stanworth/Progressio)