Somaliland holds first parliamentary vote since 2005

Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland territory held its first parliamentary election for 16 years on Monday, in what lawmakers there characterize as evidence of its comparative calm. 

The territory, which split away from Somalia in 1991 but has not achieved significant international recognition for its independence, has been mainly quiet while the rest of Somalia has undergone three decades of civil war.

“Vote in peace,” President Musi Bihi remarked after casting his ballot on television. “I urge the Somaliland people to vote in peace and calmly,” said opposition leader Abdirahmaan Mohamed Abdulahi. 

There are 246 candidates from three major parties running for 82 seats. According to the National Electoral Commission, more than one million of the country’s four million citizens have registered to vote. 

The legislative election had been postponed for a decade due to a disagreement between the three major parties over the electoral commission’s membership, which was finally settled.

Despite the delay in the legislative vote, presidential elections have been held in the past, most recently in 2017, when Bihi was elected. Next year’s presidential election is set to take place. 

This month, Dubai’s DP World revealed intentions to build Somaliland’s Berbera port in conjunction with landlocked Ethiopia, giving Somaliland a big international vote of confidence. Over the next decade, the project is estimated to bring in up to $1 billion in investment. 

Within 60 days, the rest of Somalia will undergo indirect elections, with clan representatives electing legislators, who would then elect a president.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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