Communique caps 7-8 December stakeholders’ review of causes and consequences of Somaliland election delays
The conference to review the Somaliland electoral process took place at the Ambassador Hotel, Hargeisa from the 7th to the 8th of December 2016, attended by Political parties, Members of the Parliament, Donors, Civil society organizations, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Universities and Intellectuals.
The implementation of genuine and periodic elections was a constitutional duty since the adoption of Somaliland Constitution on 31st May 2001.The Incumbent government is responsible for the deliberation of political faith for the implementation of free, fair and periodic elections in accordance with the Constitution and election legislations.
SONSAF found that the elections of House of Representatives in Art 42(1), Elders in Art 58(2, presidential in Art 88(1) and districts councils in Art 111(7) are not taking place in accordance of the term of office stipulated by the Somaliland Constitution and in Art 4 of Law No. 20/2001 and in Art 8 of Law No. 20-2/2005 of the Somaliland elections laws.
The excessive practices of elections postponements were found incompatible to the present situation of democratization in Somaliland. Delayed elections pose a serious threat and discredit Somaliland’s democratization process in the eyes of the international community.
The Somaliland Non State Actors Forum (SONSAF) has initiated the creation of a platform that provided an opportunity to review performance of periodic elections by all stakeholders and with the support of the European Union.
The objective of the review conference was to explore and examine the root causes and consequences of elections postponements and search remedies for identified setbacks and constrains experienced in Somaliland’s elections over the past two decades.
The conference welcomed the successful operations over the voter registration exercise in the first phase and commended NEC to sustain and implement such operations of the voter cards production and distribution.
2. Causes and Consequences of Elections Delays
- The participants in the conference strongly reacted and denounced how successive delays of elections damaged the State and reputation of the country, where the conference revealed the pertaining issues of House of Representative elections of the seats allocation formula which required a sequence of actions and political commitment. The conference reiterated that no further extension of office of term for the House of the Representatives in the future was to be made.
- The conference extensively addressed that elections postponement is rooted to lack of political commitments from the elected bodies in the executive branch, members of the House of Representatives and members of the local councilors. In the meantime, there is no political and legal debate about the future of the House of Elders (Guurti).
- The conference has noted that the elections postponements is discrediting Somaliland’s democracy and affecting the country’s political stability, economic development and in transforming state branches into effective, accountable and democratic institutions.
- The conference participants called for all elected bodies to respect the term of office stipulated by the constitution for each of the elected bodies and uphold the political aspirations of the citizens of Somaliland whose rights are denied by the excessive elections delays.
- The participants of the conference underlined a need for the State institutions to exercise check and balance and uphold the executive branch and local government should be accountable in accordance with the Constitution and national laws. The conference discouraged future elections delays and recognized the need to maintain constitution supremacy and the rule of law.
3. Political Parties’ Institutional Development
- The conference welcomed that all three political parties elected their presidential candidates and are ready for contest. Participants have underlined that institutionalizing of the political parties and improving their internal structures, and democracy would complement effective state institutions respecting rule of law.
- The conference recognized that political parties were formed with the intention to advance modern state institutions and to raise the competencies of the democratically elected president, Members of Parliament and local councilors.
- The participants of the conference recommended that the capacity development of national political parties is a pre-condition to the progress and maturity of democracy. The participants argued that political parties placed an inordinate emphasis on seeking more public support and more votes rather than developing an outward looking policy initiatives, agenda setting and gaining public support through applicable and implementable political programs.
- The conference recognized how political parties were partially responsible for instigation of elections delays through consensus, and called political parties to rely on rule of law rather than political consensus. In addition, the participants of the conference observed that political parties do not work as pure modern institutions but traditional and clans dominated political entities whose agendas are, thus, adversely influenced by clans.
- The conference observed that recurrent parties’ internal conflicts, which have been experienced since Somaliland adopted such multiparty political system, can be mitigated through reviewing again the parties’ law #14, 20001, improving parties’ bylaws and enhancing civic education of the general public. The conference further explored how political parties approach and mobilize clans which the participants of the conference have criticized as it may lead Somaliland to more political polarization, tribalism and social divisions.
4. Parliamentary Elections
- The conference participants indicated the fundamental importance of the parliamentary elections for both the House of Representatives and House of Elders. Participants deplored postponement of elections for the House of Representatives for the third time. The House of Elders (Guurti) elections had never been politically and legally discussed before this conference.
- The participants of the conference recommended that the Guurti elections as one organ of the bicameral parliament (Upper House) and that similar debates of the Guurti elections should be continued until their election modalities are resolved on the basis of the constitutional obligations and to explore the best case scenarios of the representation and redefinition of the mandate of the House based on either pure, traditional political structure, a modern organ of parliament or on a combination of both.
- In terms of the House of Representative elections, the conference firmly illustrated that holding House of Representative elections required an unswerving political decision on reviewing the issues of regional representations on the basis of historical, political, social and economical aspects.
- The conference strongly recommended that the House of Representatives elections should be scheduled and developed a roadmap of elections in order to resolve the underlying issues of regional representation, Women, Minority quotas and Regional demarcations.
- The conference participants recommended opening the constitution if it constrains the electoral process such as regional representation and other issues relevant to the elections. For further deliberations, the participants in the conference recommended to conduct of a study on the possibility of a constitutional review.
- The participants of the conference discussed more about issues surrounding the Guurti elections and the long term political silence, because this discourse towards Guurti elections was not discussed before, therefore, the conference recommended the need for searching for an applicable Guurti election modality.
- The conference also recommended the need for women and minority political representation in the parliament, hence, the quota to be given to the women and minority groups is essential in order to realize inclusiveness.
- Finally, the participants recommended holding a separate conference for the parliamentary elections to further investigate pertinent issues surrounding the parliamentary elections and representation.
- Voter Registration and Elections
1. The conference commended that the first phase of the voter registration process and its success history, and recommended the finalization of the voter lists, voter cards production and distributions, ensuring that every registered citizen receives his or her voter card. In the meantime, the conference, reiterated that Presidential elections be held on time.
- Improving the voter and civic education was highly recommended in future operations; citizens have inalienable rights to access timely information to inform and guide them how they can cast their votes properly and peacefully.
6. Legal gaps on the Electoral Cycle
- The conference reiterated that the Constitutional supremacy be upheld at all times in order to periodically hold elections per schedule and for state institutions thus elected to become more accountable and responsible.
- The conference has made extensive discussions and analyses about the possibilities to open the national constitution on condition that the action complies with full political stability and inclusive decision on a vigilant manner.
- The conference noted that there is no comprehensive and consolidated Somaliland electoral law and there are many gaps in the Presidential and local government election law, House of Representative elections law and political parties ‘establishment Act.
- The conference observed that Presidential and local government election law #20, 2001 is needed to review much before the Presidential elections in 2017.
- The conference also recommended the drafting of a new establishment Act for the national electoral commission (NEC) since there is no specific establishment Act for NEC and the participants highly stressed that expanding the mandate and operations of NEC would be more central to improve the country’s electoral system.
- The participants recommended the need to develop one consolidated Somaliland elections law in the near future.
This conference has strongly revealed the need to continue, periodically, such political debates in which all stakeholders participate as conferences of this kind are deemed more relevant to the current elections preparations and future strategic directions on critical issues related to the upcoming elections in 2017 and beyond. This conference has promoted an inclusive participation with an opportunity for further dialogue on exploring plausible solutions of prevention of elections delays in the future.