Somaliland’s Democracy At A Crossroads

Mohammed Dahir Ahmed

Democracy without timely elections is another form of authoritarianism and an infringement on people’s democratic and constitutional rights. One of the main pillars of Somaliland’s stability is the citizens prerogative to choose who they want in office. Purging such rights will risk the stability of Somaliland. Somaliland has had two years of presidential term extensions, which by and large have been opposed by most citizens but was forcefully passed by a few lobbyists, government ministers and the Speaker of the House of Elders. Another term extension, ignoring citizens rights, demands and aspirations will not be good for Somaliland or the region.

The same lobbyists and ministers, notably the Minister of the Presidency, is trying to find any excuse to delay the Presidential election. To make this possible they are suggesting new fictitious political engagements in the Eastern regions of the country, meddling with voter registration and the election timetable. People who are familiar with the personal background of the current Minister of the Presidency, argue that he abhors the democratic form of governance and favors either a clan form of governance or Islamic courts system style of government. Therefore, it is incumbent on Somaliland election stakeholders to not let individuals like this Minister jeopardize the Somaliland election processes.

Already, the number of clan conferences is on the rise. Daily you can watch local TV stations broadcasting the opening or closing ceremony of a major clan conference. In addition, there is increasing resentment towards the current broken democratic system. Imams openly state in Friday Sermons how democracy has become dysfunctional in and that its time to explore alternative systems. Some ministries in the government wants to see democracy fail and the emergence of their desired forms of governance.

There will be serious repercussions if another Presidential term extension is allowed. Some of these include: foreign direct investment will be negatively affected, it will further disenfranchise the youth, trust in government will diminish, parallel systems to the democratic system of governance may emerge, citizens may engage in civil disobedience, execution of court rulings will become difficult, the government will limit itself to defending its actions and the term extension and overlook existing opportunities and threats, and the trust and legitimacy of the presidency will be weakened.

There are also unresolved issues on the re-election of the House of Representatives, which needs to be explored separately. The bill to re-elect members of the House of Representatives has many loopholes which need to be resolved especially regarding the controversial issue of the regional allocation of house seats.

Questions have been raised relating to the viability of holding the two elections at the same time. Does the National Election Commission (NEC) have the required prerequisites, capabilities and experience for holding presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time? Do they have the systems and mechanisms of judging and resolving possible complaints without risking the stability and security of the country? Somaliland is located in the fragile and volatile Horn of Africa. Disputes will fuel disruptions and provide opportunities to foment social unrest and civil strife like in neighboring Somalia.

The solution is to hold the presidential election first and sort out the issues surrounding parliamentary elections. Somaliland citizens will not accept a second presidential term extension.

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