Somaliland election: Peaceful expression of popular will, say observers

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Somaliland election: Peaceful expression of popular will, say observers

Progressio, the Development Planning Unit of University College London (UCL) and Somaliland Focus (UK) congratulate the people of Somaliland and the National Electoral Commission on a peaceful expression of the popular will at the conclusion of their mission to observe Somaliland’s presidential election on 26 June 2010.

The three organisations were invited in January 2009 by Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) to act as coordinators of the international observation mission for the election in the internationally-unrecognised republic. In the event, 59 international observers visited polling stations in all six Somaliland regions, working alongside a group of 19 observers from the US-based International Republican Institute.

The mission is pleased to note many positives around the conduct of the poll, an especially noteworthy achievement given significant past difficulties. Polling day saw massive enthusiasm from the great majority of Somaliland’s electorate, particularly from female voters. There was a high turnout in many areas despite threats from Islamist militant groups to disrupt the process, which thankfully came to nothing. Overall, the election seems to have met conditions for a free and fair expression of the popular will of the people of Somaliland.

Particular congratulations are due to the National Electoral Commission. The general competence of its staff, especially those at the polling station frontlines, was impressive, especially given its short time in office and the huge challenges it faced.

There are indeed many positives. However, the mission has some concerns, which we suggest require the NEC’s attention. These include reported misuse of public resources, including vehicles, and active campaigning by civil servants and national public media by the incumbent party during the campaign. There were also reported instances of bias in the private media, although it should be stressed that reporting by most media remained balanced.

Of particular concern are issues alleged to have taken place in Sool and eastern Sanaag. In those areas, some portions of the electorate were unwilling to participate in the poll. Turnouts were low, instances of ballot box confiscation were reported and, tragically, violence in Sool resulted in the death of an NEC official. Nevertheless, Commission staff seemed to do a good job where voting did take place in these and other regions.

Other areas of concern requiring the NEC’s attention centre on the Borama district. There, observers witnessed underage voting and open distribution of voter ID cards by unauthorised agents. International observers also noted that NEC officials in certain polling stations did take effective action against these irregularities, suggesting that they may not have influenced the result of the poll. Nonetheless, these are concerns that require attention.

The mission now looks forward to a speedy and clear result in the election that is accepted by all parties. Notwithstanding the concerns outlined above, we express our confidence that the election process to date is likely to result in a free and fair expression of the popular will.