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High spirits as Somaliland prepares to vote

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Young supporters of Waddani (Somaliland National Party) – many under 16 and therefore not yet old enough to vote – gather in Freedom Park in Somaliland’s capital city, Hargeisa. An estimated 70 percent of the population are under 30. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

KATE STANWORTH

High spirits and a celebratory atmosphere have characterised the political campaign rallies in the run-up to a long-awaited presidential election in the self-declared state of Somaliland, which is due to take place on November 13.

This is Somaliland’s first presidential election since 2010, and the stakes are high. Three candidates – Faysal Ali Warabe of UCID party, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi of Waddani party and Muse Bihi Abdi, of the ruling Kulmiye party – are vying to replace Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud “Silanyo”, the current head of state.

The contest was delayed for more than two years due to voter registration issues, lack of funding and a devastating drought.

The process will be witnessed by international election observers funded by the UK government, as well as a team of over 600 domestic observers who will be reporting on polling day using SMS.

It is hoped that a hi-tech voter registration system using iris-recognition software will guard against electoral fraud.

In the past, there have been allegations that competing clans encouraged their members to register multiple times to increase their political influence. 

Since Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 following a bloody civil war, the region has held five largely peaceful elections and one constitutional referendum, forging a political system that combines traditional leadership with modern representative democracy.

The fact that it is not officially recognised by any other country means that Somaliland’s political situation is complex, and the Somali Federal Government in Mogadishu still lays claim to its territory.

A boy on his way to join an UCID (Justice and Welfare Party) rally in Hargeisa. Young people in Somaliland have shown a strong interest in politics. ‘The youth have energy, and for them politics is new,’ says Abdirashid Aliahi Farah, a 26-year-old domestic election observer. ‘Some are seeing their first election. In order to get their votes, all the parties say they have youth programmes and that they care about the young.’ KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

Supporters of Kulmiye (Peace, Unity and Development Party), the current ruling party, drive through the streets of Hargeisa displaying party colours and blaring party-promoting music on their way to a rally. Each day only one designated party can campaign, a rule created to avoid potential conflict and security issues. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

UCID presidential candidate, Faysal Ali Warabe, takes a photo with a child before addressing supporters at a rally in Hargeisa. The Somaliland constitution, approved via popular referendum in 2001, allows for only three parties to exist, a ruling designed to separate party politics from clan affiliations. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

When asked why she supports UCID, Fardus, 48, replies: ‘This is the party without tribalism. It stands for religion and justice.’ Women turned out in large numbers to the city’s campaign rallies. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

A Kulmiye party supporter at a rally in Hargeisa. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

A woman speaks during a training session for female party campaigners in Guleid Hotel. ‘We want people to vote for us without nepotism, and to campaign about positive change,’ says Xakun Cali Daahir. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

A boy chants ‘bedaluu’, an elaboration of the word ‘bedal’ meaning ‘change’, at a Waddani party political rally in Hargeisa. Word play, phrases and songs capture the popular imagination in a culture with a strong oral tradition. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

Ahmed Iman Warsame, leader of one of the groups representing so-called ‘occupational castes’ – leatherworkers, metalworkers and haircutters collectively known as the Gabooye – joins a Waddani rally on horseback. Waddani have made the support of minority groups a focus of their campaign. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

Waddani presidential candidate Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi, known as ‘Irro’ waits to address the party faithful at the last rally before polling day. This is the first presidential election in which the Waddani party has participated. Whoever wins the presidency will have to manage a fragile economy that is heavily dependent on diaspora contributions.KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

The face of presidential candidate, Muse Bihi Abdi, of the ruling Kulmiye party, on women’s shawls at a rally in Hargeisa. Bihi is a former soldier who fought for the Somali National Movement against the Mogadishu government of Siyaad Barre. ‘He has been a war veteran for the country and its people, therefore he can make the country safe in terms of security,’ says Farah, a 45 year old Kulmiye supporter at a rally in Hargeisa. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

A woman holds up a campaign leaflet in the form of a polling card at a Kulmiye party rally in Hargeisa. Polling cards will include the party symbols to cater for voters who are illiterate. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

Domestic election observers during a training session in Hargeisa. They will be part of a team of over 600 observers who will be reporting on polling day using SMS. ‘Because we are an emerging country, the world can see our democracy, so it’s important to show our process is fair and transparent,’ says 21-year-old observer and student, Isir Guleid Hussein. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

Traditional Somali dancers perform at a Waddani rally in Freedom Park, Hargeisa. Religious leaders expressed concern to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) about what they consider to be ‘un-Islamic behaviour’ during the campaigns, with the playing of music and men and women dancing together. The NEC however, let the rallies go ahead, arguing that the right to campaign is written into the constitution. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

Women chanting and singing joyfully as they wait for their leader’s address at an UCID rally in Hargeisa. KATE STANWORTH/SAFERWORLD/AL JAZEERA

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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