Universal Suffrage and Somaliland
Article 22 (2) of the Constitution of Somaliland grants citizens the right to elect or get elected in accordance with the laws of the land: “Every citizen who fulfils the requirements of the law shall have the right to be elected (to a public office) and to vote”.
Suffrage is the right to vote. Most countries allow citizens to vote once they are legally an adult. In Somaliland, the same as with other Muslim countries, the legal age a child enters the adulthood threshold is fifteen in accordance with Islamic teachings.
What constitutes a qualifying citizen depends on the government’s decision and codes that shape them up. These include the Constitution which is, in turn in the Somaliland case, drawn on the nation’s Islamic faith and its established democratic practices as ingrained in the country’s age age-old traditions and customs.
Any Somalilander at the age of fifteen or older is eligible to elect a person of his/her choice or get elected to office. Suffrage equally applies to referenda and initiatives.
The Republic of Somaliland transitioned from customary but democratic modes of selection and election to universal suffrage following a referendum carried out on May 31, 2001, which overwhelmingly approved the national constitution.
This happened during the reign of the late Mohamed Haji Ibrahim Egal, the country’s second president since the re-affirmation of the nation’s sovereignty in 1991.
President Egal envisioned a nation that chose its leaders on merits and not on by virtue of which clan they hailed from or what creed they adhered to since the system granted political equality to its citizen’s favouring no one, and that winning or losing was determined through a closed ballot box.
Besides, adult suffrage roused political awakening in citizens and protected rights of minority groups bringing up their interests in rallies, campaigns and debates among contending parties and candidates.
Since the 2001 referendum, Somaliland citizens have elected three presidents, 2 parliaments, 3 nation-wide municipal councils onto office following a 2002 selection of the constitutional three national political parties from among a host of political associations.
The Somaliland electoral commission (NEC) is a statutory, independent body proposed by the Somaliland Constitution, and first established by the Presidential and Local Elections) Law No. 20/2001 which allowed the 2002 political associations elections to be held in time. The law was repealed since then and, ultimately replaced by the Somaliland Elections & Voter Registration Act, (Law No. 91/2020).
The current version of the country’s electoral law draws largely on the Presidential and Local Elections Law (Law No: 20/2001) of 2001 that has been amended in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively, combining elections and voter registration instruments passed since 2001 to date.
The 20121 amendment, notably, repealed numerous iterations of the Voter Registration Law from 2007 to 2016 consolidating them to cover the elections of the President, the House of Representatives and the nation-wide local councils
The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the Republic of Somaliland. It works to promote public confidence in the democratic process and ensure its integrity.
The Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC, a.k.a., SLNEC) is non-political, neutral, impartial and non-partisan by law.
SLNEC, by and large, succeeded to live by the set credos distancing itself from taking sides and showing favouritism to one party, group, aspirants or contestants over the others to the detriment of the expectations and trust the public places in it.
By doing so, it adroitly avoided to be teleguided by the government or any party in the performance of its duties thus remaining free to perform its mandate without fear or favour.
Fifth Round of Commissioners
The 5th of commissioners were nominated under, perhaps, difficult circumstances and conditions that none of their predecessors faced.
The commissioners, for one, inherited problems and piqued opposition which the two opposition parties trained against the 4th lot.
Dissatisfaction with the commissioners on the part of the opposition largely stemmed from an initial rejection of presidential election results by Waddani.
The consistent calls for resignation and disbandment of the commissioners that continued onto to the new commissioners approved by the House of Representatives on 12 November 2019 reached a stage where UCID pulls out its nominee to put pressure on the rest of the commissioners and the government.
The UCID representative in the roster resigned on 3 February 2020 in order ‘to respect public opinion and the wishes of electoral stakeholders’ – he said at the time.
The stages of the running conflict between the government and NEC, on one side, and the opposition parties, on the other, oscillated from calls for total boycott of cooperation with NEC to brief lulls where one or the other or both opposition parties retracted previous avowals and acerbic positions.
On 12 November 2019, the Somaliland House of representatives approved six out of the mandated seven electoral commissioners with one resigning later (as above) to be replaced by another commissioner. The present composition of the electoral body was completed on 28 June 2020 following a final agreement among the parties.
Despite the many debilitating circumstances that inhibited and paralyzed a smooth sail of electoral activities, the elected commissioners went into their obligation with a single-minded determination.
They, soon after they picked a chair-person from among themselves on 30 November 2019, delved into tasks at hand taking the slack from where their predecessors left it.
They Mapped an electoral schedule and setting benchmarks and timelines for requisite activities leading to a poll day. Procuring equipment, updating data bases, upgrading digital systems, sieving through registered voters, uncollected cards and a pile-up of ther cares and considerations took up most of 2020.
The demanding tasks never eclipsed primary duties which guided every step taken, every decision taken along the way.
The primary responsibilities of the Republic of Somaliland’s electoral body, naturally, follows internationally mandated lines.
Nuances of differences only happen when and where local conditions, traditions and lines of responsibilities necessitate minor adjustments to maximise competence, efficiency and consensus building, especially among political contenders.
SLNEC, however, largely conformed to the broader, accepted norms throughout its successive terms from 2002 to date. Fundamental duties it thoroughly dispensed with a commendable degree of competency included:
- Ensure that rules, regulations and guidelines are put in place to guarantee the proper conduct of free and fair elections.
- Educate, guide, inform voters: NEC makes sure elections are run well, and that people have all the information they need.
- Oversee and manage preparation activities for elections
- Canvass for and secure election-related funds and budgets
- Constituency delimitation: creation, division and demarcation of electoral constituencies and poll administrative areas for the purpose of properly and faultlessly conducting elections
- Registering voters and compilation of voters register
- Registration of contesting political parties
- Screening and registration of political aspirants, candidates
- Disqualification of voters and candidates who do not measure up to set criteria, rules and regulations
- Deciding on number and identification of poll regions, poll districts and pol stations
- Recruitment of qualified personnel with high degree of integrity to ensure confidentiality and accuracy of election-related tabulations and data
- Procurement of electoral materials and equipment
- Supervision of erection of polling booths
- Provision of all personnel, security, logistics necessary for free and fair cast of votes
- Conduct free and fair elections to elect qualified candidates into government.
- Resolve election-related disputes drawing on the assistance and input of election-related conflict resolution bodies and, where necessary, judicial systems
- Announce Election results immediately after the election (declaration of winners)
Besides the core duties, the new commissioners had to fill, they had to contend with parallel tasks which constrained and – more often than not – put up stumbling blocks on a smooth run of the electoral roadmap.
These, to cite but a few, included:
- A mercurial attitude on the part of the parties which often changed temperature sometimes without warning which often put a spoke on an on-going activity
- Frequent shifts of timelines and charted milestones
- Budget constraints
- Maintenance of impartiality and open communication channels with all parties which was, perhaps, one of those most arduous tasks of NEC
- Resolution of running conflicts/disagreements among the political parties
- A balance of diplomacy and ethics in order to maintain good relations with all stakeholders including international partners often proofed taxing
On 15 January 2021, NEC Commissioners decided to go ahead with the proposed double-election for local councils and parliament. On 2nd February the Guurti- Somaliland Upper House or Senate concurs NEC scheduled poll date of 31 May 202.
The theatre was set for a playout of a task the likes of which had not been undertaken before in the 31-year history of the fledgling democracy.
The decision and the determination of this particular batch of electoral commissioners defined the calibre, capability and integrity of its members.
NEC Chairman, Abdirashid Mohamoud Ali, his accessibility, unflustered, stress attitude throughout the run-up to the election, on election day and the days after, especially impressed international observers.
But the Chairman’s attitude was not peculiar or character-specific. All seven commissioners equally demonstrated the same impeccable, able, unflustered qualities.
The Brenthurst Foundation, leading the Somaliland Electoral Monitoring Mission (SEMM [Annex 2.1.]), summed up the scope and climate of the huge task NEC undertook and how it surpassed expectations by stating that the ‘National Electoral Commission effectively administered a complex and logistically demanding election’.
SEMM, in its observation report of the election, pointed out that without a tolerant tradition of democracy indelibly etched into the governing system and in public psych, the daunting task could have not been achieved.
The conduct of the election illustrated an ‘overall the existence of an effective state governed by its own unique form of social contract’, it said.
“Voting was generally peaceful, characterised by high levels of trust and enthusiasm from the electorate, which assisted in overcoming any frailties in the election management,” SEMM said, and that this eighth election proved Somaliland’s democratic prowess and that this illustrious needed be ‘recognised by the world and especially supported by Africa’.
The United Kingdom and European Union observers, on their part )Annex 2.2), warmly congratulated ‘the people of Somaliland, political parties, the National Electoral Commission and other government institutions on the successful conduct of the 2021 parliamentary and local council elections and on electoral security arrangements’.
“Through these elections, the people of Somaliland have demonstrated a strong commitment to the electoral process, to political participation and to strengthening democracy,” they said in a statement they released on the conclusion of the election.
Signatories of the statement included the European Union mission, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
To cap it all, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Somaliland, Musa Bihi Abdi, received the elated but so exhausted commissioners at his office at the Presidential Palace, Hargeisa.
President Bihi expressed his gratitude for a well job well done.
The President, also, conveyed the nation’s appreciation of how the Commissioners purported themselves during the electoral weathering difficult waters to conduct an election that has been hailed far and wide as ‘free and fair’.
The Commissioners, it was not said, though, achieved the greatest record by seeing to it that neither local nor external influences marred the election, including that of the government which the President, himself, prohibited.
Salient Milestones Achieved
|07 July 2021||The Somaliland Constitutional Court validates election results as submitted by the electoral commission – NEC|
|12 June 2021||President Bihi receives NEC Commissioners to express appreciation of how ‘splendidly’ the electoral body conducted the double-election process as concluded on May 31, 2021|
|08 June 2021||International partners ‘congratulate the people of Somaliland, political parties, the National Electoral Commission and other government institutions on the successful conduct of the 2021 parliamentary and local council elections and on electoral security arrangements’ of May 31 elections|
|31 May 2021||NEC conducts first double election for local and parliamentary elections without any serious glitches or misconduct reported.|
|May 25-30, 2021||International election observers including SEMM, LIEOM, Brenthurst Foundation and over 10 foreign UK and EU embassies PLUS representatives of foreign mission already in place in Somaliland organize and get ready to observe polling day procedures first-hand. International and regional figures such as Ernest Bai Koroma, a former President of Sierra Leone, Kifefe Kizza-Besigye, a Ugandan political leader and activist, John Githonga, a Kenyan political figure and activist, Michael Walls, Professor Iqbal Jhazbhai and Dr Greg Mills were among them.|
|11 May 2021||NEC releases final list of valid, eligible voters. Out of validly registered 1,191,905 voters, 123,867 did not pick up their cards leaving the final figure eligible to vote as 1,065,847.|
|11 April 2021||NEC concludes voter card re-distribution exercise in final voter-readiness exercise before the May 31 double election.|
|27 April 2021||NEC publishes final list of parliamentary candidates across the 6 poll regions|
|24 April 2021||NEC releases list of candidates running for 20 out of 23 possible local councils around the country. Badhan, Dhahar and Las Koreh districts missed the election due to security issues.|
|11 February 2021||NEC schedules replacement of lost voter cards and change of poll district for voters|
|02 February 2021||Somaliland bicameral parliament’s upper house – the Guurti – concurs NEC schedule for election of parliamentarians and local councillors|
|15 January 2021||Somaliland National Electoral Commission sets date for the long-awaited parliament and municipality councillors’ election for 31 May 2021. The new MPs will replace colleagues who had been elected to the House 17 years ago – an overstay of 12 years.|
|02 September 2020||NEC Tests out iris-recognition, biometric voter registration at Oodweyne and Balligubadle districts|
|28 June 2020||Parliament completes the NEC roster. The House approves representatives of the two opposition parties following an agreement between the government and the parties.|
|27 March 2020||President Bihi and opposition leaders jointly hold a press conference to deplore non-endorsement of parliament of last 2 commissioners completing the NEC roster. The nomination of the 2 commissioners was to end a protracted differences between the government and its ruling party, on the one hand, and the two opposition parties, on the other.|
|27 March 2020||Somaliland House of Representatives rejects to approve two commissioners forwarded them, respectively, by Waddani and UCID opposition parties for varying reasons.|
|03 February 2020||The then UCID-nominated commissioner, Hassan Yussuf Duale, resigns on behest of his party after fallout with the government and the ruling party.|
|18 January 2020||Waddani and UCID opposition parties jointly call for the immediate resignation of the new electoral commissioners|
|24 December 2019||President Bihi receives newly sworn-in commissioners with Waddani’s still missing. The event followed calls for their dissolution and the re-instatement of the outgoing lot or the nomination of a new line-up as proposed by a voluntary ‘mediation committee’.|
|16 December 2019||A voluntary mediation committee who tasked itself to break the deadlock between the government and the opposition parties call for the disbandment of NEC commissioners, proposing a re-instatement of the former, outgoing group|
|30 November 2019||Newly approved – though incomplete – NEC commissioners elect Abdirashid Mohamoud Ali a.k.a. Riyo Raa’ as chairman and Mustafa Mohamed Dahir as deputy-chair.|
|12 November 2019||The Republic of Somaliland lower house – the House of Representatives – approve 6 out of the mandated 7-member National Electoral Commission. The 7th, to have represented Waddani opposition party, was not present in country at the time.|
Annex 1: Names and length of Term of NEC Commissioners since 2002, in descending order
- Fifth Electoral Commissioners 2019 – to date
- Abdirashid Mohamoud Ali (Riyo-raac), Chairman
- Mustafe Mohamed Dahir (Dhawal), Vice Chair
- Abdifatah Ibrahim Hassan
- KaltunSh. Hassan Abdi
- Abdurrahman Mohamed Ismail (Dihod)
- Mohamoud Dahir Jama
- Abdikarim Yasin Sheikh Ahmed Dalmar
- Fourth Electoral Commissioners 2014-2019
- Eng. Abdulqadir Iman Warsame
2. Mohamoud Hassan Wais
3. Said Ali Musa
4. Abdifatah Ibrahim Hassan
5. Mohamed Jama Mohamed
6. Kaltun Sh. Hassan Abdi
7. Abdurrahman Osman Adan
- Third Electoral Commissioners 2009-2014
- Essa Yussuf Mohamed (CiiseXamari)
2. Mohamed Ahmed Hersi.
3. Ali-Khadar Hassan Osman
4. Abdifatah Ibrahim Hassan
5. Farah Abib Adan
6. Raabi Abdi Mohamed
7. Abdurrahman Mohamed Ismail
- Second Electoral Commissioners 2007-2009
- Jama Mohamoud Egeh
2. Mohamed Ismail Mohamed
3. Hirsi Hajji Ali Hassan, who resigned on 8 May 2008 and replaced by Ali Mohamad Abdillahi, officially approved by the parliament on 20 May 2008.
4. Mohamed Yusuf Ahmed
5. Ahmed Mohamed Hajji Dahir (replaced by Khadar Gulaid)
6. Ismail Muse Nur
7. Hassan Mohamed Omer (replaced by Hassan Omar Horri)
- First Electoral Commissioners 2002-2007
- Ahmed Hajji Ali (Cadami)
2. Abdillahi Hajji Omar (Jawaan)
3. Shukri Hajji Ismail Bandare
4. Musa Mohamed Jama (Muse Xisbi)
5. Ahmed Adan Godir
6. Mohamed Sh. Abdillahi
7. Mohamed Garaad Mohamed
Figure 2: President Bihi takes a group picture with international observers after the election
Annex 1I: International Observers’ Elections Statements (Domestic Observers statement not available yet)
- Report of The Brenthurst Foundation: Somaliland Election Monitoring Mission (SEMM)
The statement as published on 1 June 2021
Members of The Brenthurst Foundation’s Somaliland Election Monitoring Mission visited Somaliland between 26 May and 2 June 2021 to monitor Parliamentary and Local Government elections on 31 May 2021 at the invitation of President Muse Bihi Abdi. This report was agreed to by the mission and handed over to the presidency on 1 June 2021.
Led by the Foundation’s director, Dr Greg Mills, the mission included the following members, all based in African countries:
−H.E President Ernest Bai Koroma, Former President of Sierra Leone
−Mr Alex Waiswa, National Unity Platform, Uganda
−Mr Aly Verjee, Africa Center, US Institute for Peace, Ethiopia
−Mr Abbasali Haji, MD, East Africa Capital, Tanzania
−Mr Atom Lim, Special Advisor to President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria
−Mr Benjamin Ezeamalu, Premium Times, Nigeria
−Mr Bradford Machila, Legal Adviser, UPND, Zambia
−Ms Chipokota Mwanawasa, Lawyer, Zambia
−Ms Dianna Games, CEO, Africa@Work, South Africa
−Ms Gladys Hlatywayo, Secretary for International Relations, MDC, Zimbabwe
−Ms Gwen Ngwenya, Head of Policy, Democratic Alliance, South Africa
−Mr Johannes Martin, Shadow Minister for Defence, PDM, Namibia
−Mr John Githongo, CEO, Inuka, Kenya
−Mr John Steenhuisen, Leader, Democratic Alliance, South Africa
−Dr Kizza Besigye, Leader, Forum for Democratic Change, Uganda
−Mr Lutero Simamgo, MDM, Mozambique
−Ambassador Lewis Brown, Former Representative to the UN, Liberia
−Mr Peter Fabricius, Daily Maverick, South Africa
−Mr Richard Harper, Richard Harper Logistics, South Africa
−Hon. Mr Tendai Biti, Vice-President, MDC, Zimbabwe
−Mr Zitto Zaberi Kabwe, Leader, ACT Wazalendo, Tanzania.
The above members were specifically selected for their experience in either observing or participating in elections as members of political parties, sometime both.
The Brenthurst Foundation team comprised
−Dr Greg Mills, Director, South Africa
−Mr Ray Hartley, Research Director, South Africa
−Dr Lyal White, South Africa
−Ms Marie-Noelle Nwokolo, Ghana
−Ms Leila Jack, South Africa
−Ms Gugu Resha, South Africa.
The mission travelled to six centres – Hargeisa, Berbera, Burao, Sheikh, Boroma and Gabiley –encompassing an estimated three-quarters of Somaliland’s 3.5 million population.
A total of 249polling stations were observed by the group, comprising nine percent of the total number of 2709.
This report is a summary of their observations of the election of 31 May 2021.
In June 1960 Somaliland gained its independence from its colonial master Britain before deciding to join former Italian Somaliland five days later in a union which collapsed amidst civil war in 1991.
In the centre of the capital, Hargeisa, is the 18 May independence memorial, commemorating the event when, having lost control of the province, the Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre ordered his air force, operating from the local airport, to bomb the city briefly captured by local Somali National Movement (SNM) liberation fighters in May 1988, resulting in many thousands of civilian casualties. By the time of Siad Barre’s fall three years later, the main cities of Hargeisa and Burao had been reduced to rubble.
Peace and recovery have not demanded vast external resources, but rather the mobilisation of domestic political will.
Somaliland’s democracy was built on five major internal meetings, starting with the Grand Conference of the Northern Peoples in Burao, held over six weeks, concluding with the declaration of Somaliland’s independence from Somalia on 18 May 1991.
The independence declaration was signed in an octangular tin-roofed building near the former colonial governor’s building, without electricity and running water, the white walls outside still pock-marked by bullet holes. This and other peace conferences were managed and financed by locals, bringing their own food and shelter.
Such events were organically bottom-up rather than top-down. Peace in Somaliland demanded a combination of community spirit and persistence, as has the recovery which has followed.
The former British protectorate has developed a stable, democratic system of politics, merging modern and traditional elements, with seven election events over the last thirty years, including the 2001 referendum.
In 2002, Somaliland made the transition from a clan-based system to multi-party democracy following the referendum, formalising the Guurti as an Upper House of Elders, which secures the support of traditional clan-based power structures. There have since been regular elections and a frequent turnover of power between the main political parties. The 2003 presidential election was won by Dahir Riyale Kahin by just 80 votes in nearly half a million from Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo. The tables were turned in 2010, with Silanyo winning 49% of the vote to his opponent’s 33%. Muse Bihi Abdi, a former SNM fighter, who had earlier served as a Soviet-trained fighter pilot in the Somali Air Force, was elected in November 2017, receiving 55% of the vote, becoming the country’s fifth president, and cementing a tradition of peaceful handovers of power rare to the region.
On 31 May 2021,aroundthe 30th anniversary of Somaliland’s independence and the 20th anniversary of its multiparty democracy, despite Covid-19, the parliamentary and local district elections were staged, with 1.1 million voters registered by the National Electoral Commission (NEC). Unlike Somaliland’s previous six elections, which were mostly funded by outsiders, 70% of the $8 million budget was financed internally. And despite delays in the election, caused by a standoff between the presidency and opposition parties over the nomination of members of the NEC, and challenges with the iris biometric voter registration system, these wereamongthe most competitive, with 246 candidates for 82 parliamentary seats and 966 for 249 district municipality posts across the six regions.
Mission members were present in Somaliland from 26 May 2021 until 2 June 2021.
The team spent the days ahead of elections in an intensive set of preparatory meetings with election officials from the leadership of the National Election Commission to technical staff involved in voter verification. Meetings also took place with local observers under the Somaliland Non-State Actors Forum (SONSAF) umbrella and the Limited International Election Observation Mission (LIEOM) funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom. The team also met with the SOLJA, an organisation representing Somaliland journalists, and with opposition groups.
Limited observation of campaigning took place in the run up to voting.
For election day, the team divided itself among five key centres accounting for more than 70% of the voting population with two-person teams in each centre visiting a number of polling stations. The stations were chosen to ensure a geographic spread, and a rural-urban mix. Teams were asked to observe the opening and closing of a particular station, but to visit others in the interim to monitor proceedings.
The teams formally employed two forms to ensure consistent reporting on polling station procedures and the proper recording of incidents which might have affected the outcome. Examples of both forms are attached to this report.
A rapporteur was given responsibility for compiling regional reports on the events of election day. The final report was adopted on 1 June 2021.
The Mission was briefed in detail on election preparations by the head of the National Electoral Commission, Abdirashid Mohamuod Ali on 27 May2021. The briefing covered the electoral system, voting procedure, and the voters roll among other topics and was followed by an in-depth question and answer session.
A second, more detailed briefing and question and answer session was held with the chairman as well as the director of operations, Saeed Mohamed Osman and the commission’s IT department on 28 May2021. A further NEC official briefed the team on gender issues on 29 May 2021.
SONSAF Mission and Civil Society:
The Mission was briefed by Ayan Hassan of the Somaliland Non-State Actors Forum on its extensive monitoring operation involving over 900 observers and was given a tour of the organisation’s operations centre where election day data was to be collected and disseminated to the public on 29 May2021.
The Mission was briefed by Professor Michael Walls of the Limited International Election Observation Mission on their plan to observe the election on 28 May. The SEMM also engaged with the LIEOM during the election monitoring phase in the field.
Meetings were also held with political party leaders, both to inform them of the mission’s intentions and receive a briefing on their perspective of the elections. This was a limited encounter and full meetings with the leaders of parties would have added to the team’s knowledge, but were difficult to organise in the immediate run-up to the election on 29 May.
President Muse Bihi Abdi:
The Mission held a meeting with Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi, who invited the Brenthurst Foundation to establish the monitoring mission, at the presidency on May 29. The meeting included the introduction of members of the delegation and a description of its work, a statement by the president on the upcoming elections and a wide-ranging question and answer session.
The Mission met with the leadership of the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) on 29 May 2021. It was also briefed on the state of media freedom, reporting of the election and the accessibility of information to voters.
Concerns included the concentration of government in radio with only one, government-controlled radio station and the arrest (and subsequent release) of several journalists in the period prior to the election. However, SOLJA leaders said they believed the country was moving in an “improving” as opposed to “deteriorating” media freedom environment, citing the large number of independent television channels and the proliferation of independent internet and social media-based outlets.
Election Briefings and Civil Society:
At its pre-election preparation meeting, the team was briefed by two of its members, John Githongo and Aly Verjee, both of whom have observed many elections on their previous experience of monitoring elections and advice on 29 May. The meeting was attended by an official of the NEC and by Edna Adan Ismail, a nurse, midwife, activist and the first female Foreign Minister of Somaliland from 2003 to 2006to advise on local conditions in the regions. A further briefing on what to look out for over the election was provided by Dr Jama Musse Jama of the Red Sea Cultural Foundation on 30 May2021.
Teams outside Hargeisa were in place in regional locations the day before voting and returned the day after. This enabled them to observe the opening and closing of polling stations as well as counting in selected stations. Teams were given the freedom to move from their assigned station to observe voting elsewhere but returned to their original station prior to closing.
Regional teams met after election day to discuss events and to assist the rapporteur with the completion of the regional reports included below:
The total number of stations observed was 245, broken down into: Hargeisa (104), Burao and Sheikh (45), Berbera (64) and Boroma (56). This section comprises both specific observations and general comments.
SPECIFIC ELECTION INSIGHTS
Time of opening: Most stations opened at 0700 or soon after. The reasons for delays seemed mostly to be late arrivals of NEC or party agents. The equipment arrived on time, and the majority of presiding officers all followed correct procedures of showing the empty boxes and the seals to party agents before voting began.Voters in various stations had been queuing as early as 0330, and there were high levels of anticipation and excitement.
Presence of party agents inside polling station during voting and counting:
With the exception ofa small number of stations, party agents from all three parties were present. Any disagreements witnessed about party representation were resolved to the satisfaction of all. SONSAF local observers were present in about 60% of voting stations.
Privacy during voting: Most stations had rudimentary screens comprising NEC-supplied cloth kits. A high percentage of illiterate voters meant that a large number were assisted by officials. This practice compromised voter secrecy in these cases. This was regardless conducted in an open and highly transparent manner with the agreements of the party agents.
Accessibility of voting station to all: Stations were generally accessible, and there were instances of assistance by security forces and others for disabled and elderly voters who were, in many instances observed, allowed to vote first.
Time of closing: Most polling stations closed at 1800, though allowing those already in the queue to vote. The generally slow pace of voting observed, at around 20-30 votes cast per hour, meant that voting continued in one case as late as 2000. In only one case was a voter allowed to vote arriving shortly after poll closure.
Security of voting: The checking of voters’ registration details, while laborious and time consuming, was thorough. Voters’ fingers were daubed with indelible ink as per NEC regulations. The use of fingerprints as an additional measure of voter security was employed. There were some instances of the adding of names to the voter roll. Most ballot boxes were very full, and most appeared to be sealed or partly sealed, and in a few cases unmarked with the polling station identification number. In some cases, concern was expressed at the apparent youthfulness of voters, but registration details were checked by the presiding officers.
Vote counting, management of contested ballots: Vote counting was generally slow, reflecting the tired state of many officials who had already worked a long day in difficult conditions, though NEC officials and party agents worked well together throughout the counting process in both establishing and verifying the results. The stamping of unused ballot papers seemed inconsistent between stations, though this was under the scrutiny always of party agents.
Other noteworthy issues: Observers noted poor Covid-19 measures across the entire geography of the SEMM, although most officials had been issued with marks. Social distancing was, as a rule, very difficult to enforce given the high turnout of voters and the hot conditions. Voting booths were generally cramped, and conditions inside hot and uncomfortable.
Lighting was poor especially in rural areas for the counting, though lights and generators were employed along with cell phones and solar lamps.
There was a degree of confusion between the use of identification cards and blue A5 temporary documents, with some stations delaying voting as a consequence.
Polling stations officials had to draw up their own counting templates which took time and delayed the vote count.
- This is the eighth democratic election in Somaliland, strengthening is its democratic tradition in a region not known for its democratic character. This should be recognised by the world and especially supported by Africa.
- Voting was generally peaceful, characterised by high levels of trust and enthusiasm from the electorate, which assisted in overcoming any frailties in the election management.
- The conduct of the election illustrates overall the existence of an effective state governed by its own unique form of social contract.
- The National Electoral Commission effectively administered a complex and logistically demanding election, with scope for improvements according to its own regulations and laws.
- There was consensus on disputes inside the polling stations. In Somaliland the software appears to work exceptionally well despite the rudimentary conditions and widespread poverty, centering on the trust and implicit confidence in the NEC. The hardware is a secondary tool and consideration in these circumstances.
- Local civil society is admirably represented though dependent on the quality of the local observer. SONSAF is a cost-effective means for donors to support democracy in action.
- The Somaliland proportional representation system is complex, especially for illiterate voters but the lack of winner-takes-all system makes for political system where loss does not mean dramatic ethnic exclusion from power and economic opportunity.
- The calm that characterised the process, the lack of party rancor on the day not only demonstrates people’s implicit confidence in the process but that Somaliland has used its own permutation of a modern democratic model to manage intra-clan cleavages.
- Allowing 15-year old voters is a striking feature of Somaliland’s democracy, but may assist in empowering a sense of responsibility and assist, too, including acritical and large demographic.
- The country has built on peace based organically on social consensus from the bottom up and developed a stable political environment centered around democratic participation which contains tensions and mediates conflict through democratic choice. This was noteworthy during the elections which took place on 31 May 2021.
- The three political parties contesting the election share a view that there is democratic progress. Although conditions were sometimes rudimentary, a can-do, consensus-based approach by all political parties and officials quickly resolved problems to the satisfaction of all.
- On election day there was a prominent presence of security officials who were pre-occupied with managing queues which threatened to become disruptive in some locations. No security force interference with voting in any polling station was observed.
- The election was observed by two international missions and a large, independent domestic NGO mission which deployed over 900 monitors to polling stations. The NEC co-operated with and shared information freely with these observers and availed its leadership to brief and inform the delegations as requested. International monitors and observers were welcomed everywhere they went and even honoured in some polling stations.
- From what the Brenthurst Foundation’s mission saw during its period and scope of observation, the 31 May 2021 Somaliland election process was free, fair and credible.
The Mission will revert with a statement outlining detailed recommendations.
(Members of The Brenthurst Foundation’s Somaliland Election Monitoring Mission visited Somaliland between 26 May and 2 June 2021 to monitor Parliamentary and Local Government elections on 31 May 2021 at the invitation of President Muse Bihi Abdi.
Annex 2.2. International partners congratulate the people of Somaliland, political parties, the National Electoral Commission and other government institutions.
International partners congratulate the people of Somaliland, political parties, the National Electoral Commission and other government institutions on the successful conduct of the 2021 parliamentary and local council elections and on electoral security arrangements. Through these elections, the people of Somaliland have demonstrated a strong commitment to the electoral process, to political participation and to strengthening democracy.
We welcome in particular the historic election of minority groups to the House of Representatives and the large numbers of youth candidates elected. We recognise the significant achievements of female candidates during this electoral process, but deeply regret that this has not translated to more women in elected office resulting in decreased women political representation. It will be important for all stakeholders to learn from this, and for government, political parties and others to take actions to strengthen women’s political participation well in advance of future elections. We look forward to urgent and concrete steps from the new parliament and the government to ensure a fair representation of women in government and administration.
We remain committed to continuing our constructive cooperation to further democratisation and the inclusion of women and marginalised groups in Somaliland, and to support regular and timely elections at all levels of government. We look forward to strengthening our cooperation with the newly elected local councils and parliament, both on these issues and on other matters of mutual interest.
This statement is on behalf of the following partners: European Union, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
Annex 2.3: Copy of the Somaliland Constitutional Court Validation/Certification of the Election Results and Candidates
Annex 2.4: List of Successful, Elected MPs as Validated by the Constitutional Court