Break­away So­ma­liland votes for new pres­i­dent

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

MO­GADISHU: Res­i­dents of the self­pro­claimed state of So­ma­liland voted Mon­day in its third pres­i­den­tial poll, hop­ing to prove its demo­cratic cre­den­tials and strengthen the case for in­de­pen­dence from trou­bled So­ma­lia.

The north­ern ter­ri­tory, which is more trib­ally ho­moge­nous and sta­ble than the rest of So­ma­lia, broke away in 1991 and has been striv­ing to at­tain in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion ever since.

Three can­di­dates are run­ning for the state’s top of­fice, sea­soned politi­cians Muse Bihi of the rul­ing Kul­miye party and op­po­si­tion can­di­dates Ab­di­rah­man Iro and Faysal Ali Warabe, who was de­feated in pre­vi­ous elec­tions in 2010.

“The pro­ce­dure started peace­fully this morn­ing and we are con­fi­dent that this elec­tion is go­ing to be a milestone for the en­tire re­gion,” said Iro as he voted.

Elec­tions are meant to be held ev­ery five years, how­ever the poll was de­layed for two years due to drought and tech­ni­cal is­sues.

In­cum­bent Ahmed Mo­hamud Si­laanyo is not seek­ing re-elec­tion.

So­ma­liland’s his­tory of peace­ful, cred­i­ble elec­tions and demo­cratic tran­si­tion sets it apart from an­ar­chic south­ern So­ma­lia, and in­deed much of east Africa.

So­ma­lia’s elec­tion ear­lier this year saw a pres­i­dent cho­sen via a lim­ited elec­toral process in which hand­picked clan elders se­lected del­e­gates who were al­lowed to vote.

Ahead of the So­ma­liland elec­tion, the three main can­di­dates held a tele­vised de­bate to present their po­lit­i­cal agen­das, fo­cus­ing on the econ­omy, jobs and in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion.

“This is a very crit­i­cal elec­tion... for the youth, they need a leader who can de­velop the econ­omy and bring jobs so that ev­ery­body can stay in their coun­try to en­joy their lives,” said univer­sity stu­dent Is­mail Mo­hamed.

The poll is set to be the most so­phis­ti­cated yet with some 700,000 vot­ers reg­is­tered us­ing bio­met­ric eye scan­ners which will iden­tify them be­fore they cast their bal­lots.

A de­ci­sion by au­thor­i­ties to block all so­cial me­dia was crit­i­cized by Hu­man Rights Watch last week.

Said Ali Muse, spokesman for the na­tional elec­toral com­mis­sion, said the move was nec­es­sary to pre­vent in­ter­fer­ence from out­side the borders of the semi­au­tonomous state and spec­u­la­tion over re­sults.

It is un­clear how soon re­sults will be re­leased.

So­ma­liland, a for­mer Bri­tish pro­tec­torate, won in­de­pen­dence in 1960 but days later joined with So­ma­lia. In 1991, af­ter years of bit­ter war with the gov­ern­ment in Mo­gadishu, it de­clared in­de­pen­dence from the rest of the coun­try.

De­spite its lack of recog­ni­tion, the state has man­aged to draw sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment from abroad, no­tably Gulf na­tions.

Kuwait fi­nanced the ren­o­va­tion of the air­port in the cap­i­tal Hargeisa, and a Dubai-based com­pany has been con­tracted to ex­pand the Ber­bera port in a bid to com­pete with Dji­bouti for con­tainer traf­fic from Ethiopia.

A man cel­e­brates the self-de­clared in­de­pen­dence day of So­ma­liland in Hargeisa in a file photo. (Reuters)

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