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Somaliland votes for new president amid tight contest

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MOGADISHU, SOMALIA People in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland are voting Monday to elect their fifth president Monday as the ruling party faces a strong challenge from opposition candidates.

More than 700,000 registered voters are expected to cast their votes at more than 1,600 polling stations across Somaliland amid tight security in the peaceful enclave.

This election will be the first in Africa one to use iris-scan biometric technology to prevent anyone from voting more than once, said Somaliland’s electoral officials.

Three candidates are running for president following weeks of election campaigns. The current president is stepping down after his five-year term was controversially extended for two and half years because of a shortage of funds and a drought. Muse Bihi Abdi, the candidate for the ruling Kulmiye party and his main challenger Abdirahman Irro from the opposition Wadani party are slight favorites over Feisal Ali Warabe, a veteran politician from the opposition party UCID.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time and will close at 6 p.m. Long lines have formed outside polling stations as soldiers stood guard nearby.

Results are expected by Friday. The new president will serve a five-year term that can be renewed once. The vote will be monitored by a British-funded team of 60 international observers from 27 countries.

The Somaliland government will block access to social media during the vote-counting period to try to prevent the spread of rumors about election results.

Somaliland, a haven of relative peace in northwestern Somalia declared its unilateral independence from Somalia in 1991. However, no country has so far recognized it as an independent state. Some voters said they hope Monday’s vote will help Somaliland’s push for international recognition.

“We hope it’ll be a peaceful election that will prove to the world that Somaliland deserves an international recognition,” said Barkhad Jama, a resident in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital.

Somaliland

Protests in Somaliland As Opposition Claim Election Fraud

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Wadani Party supporters took to the streets of various opposition strongholds to protest what they claim to be election irregularities.

In Burco police used live bullets to disperse protestors.

Riots erupted hours after senior Wadani officials held a press conference on Thursday morning, accusing the ruling party of purchasing and using ballot papers forged with NEC’s official stamp.

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Somaliland

British MP praises Somaliland Elections at the House of Commons

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“With recent events in Zimbabwe and total election chaos in Kenya will the Prime Minister join me in celebrating the hugely successful election this week in Somaliland with direct help from this country” Zac Goldsmith British Member of Parliament

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Somaliland

Vote Counting Under Way in Somaliland Presidential Election

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WASHINGTON/HARGEISA — Vote counting is underway in Somaliland after the breakaway republic held its presidential election.

Three candidates are competing to replace President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, who opted not to seek re-election.

The three candidates, Muse Bihi Abdi of the ruling Kulmiye party, Faysal Ali Warabe of UCID and Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi of the Waddani party, cast their votes Monday in Hargeisa, the capital.
Somaliland’s electoral commission said voting was peaceful in all of the republic’s six regions. It said it recorded an incident in Togdher region where at least one person was injured after a soldier’s gun accidentally discharged.

Of the more than 1,600 polling stations, only a few had people in line when voting ended at 6 p.m. Electoral officials closed the stations, but allowed those in line to cast their ballots.

Final results are not expected for several days. Under the vote-counting system, polling stations send their results to regional offices, who will pass them on to the electoral commission.
Voting was watched by a total of 60 election observers from 27 countries whose salaries were paid by Britain.

The observers said they heard reports of some problems, but not many.

“I’m referring to isolated instances, with one of the more serious being in Hargeisa where a polling station was closed down because of a disturbance.

That prevented or delayed the closing of the polling station and the count. We’re not sure of details yet,” said the observer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There were also some complaints from parties of voters being prevented from voting, though again, we didn’t hear of anything that seemed systematic or widespread.”

More than 700,000 people were expected to vote. Turnout was thought to be high, but the commission says it was too early to give figures.

Somaliland, a former British colony, broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991. The territory has run its own affairs since, but has never been recognized as an independent country.

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