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Somaliland Elections Postponed Once Again


Elections in the breakaway republic of Somaliland have been postponed again. Somaliland's election commission said it reached its decision after determining the vote scheduled for later this month could not be properly held in the current political environment.

Somaliland's election commission has not set a new date for elections. The latest announcement marks the third delay for the vote that was originally scheduled for April 2008.

The seven-member commission said it decided on the postponement unanimously, after agreeing that fair elections could not take place in the absence of proper voter registration lists.

The United States had previously expressed dismay over the government's decision to hold the elections without an actual voter list. Opposition leaders have accused the president of attempting to orchestrate large-scale poll fraud.

The election commission also said it hinged its decision on skepticism that any democratic vote could take place in the midst of the region's current political crisis as Somaliland President Dahir Riyale attempts to maintain his grip on power.

The members of Somaliland's Lower House of Parliament introduced a motion to impeach the president this weekend, which if successfully passed by the majority would require a two-thirds vote in the Upper House of Parliament to finish the impeachment.

The election commission suggested that instead of attempting a flawed election on September 27, it is preferable to see if discussions between the government and opposition parties can find a compromise.

The territory of Somaliland declared independence 18 years ago after Somalia's last central government collapsed, but has yet to be recognized as its own state by the international community.

The group Human Rights Watch had warned in July that human-rights abuses and systematic delays by the president in preparing the territory for elections was threatening the significant and unlikely democratic gains Somaliland had achieved since 1991.

Human Rights Watch researcher Chris Albin-Lackey says that the international community is in the position to put significant positive pressure on the government to adhere to its democratic constitution, but that instead the region has largely been left on its own.

"I think the recognition question gives the international community quite a deal of leverage should it choose to exercise it," he said. "Unfortunately though, most of the key international actors who have displayed quite a lot of interest in what is going on in south and central Somalia over the past couple of years, have really continued to neglect and ignore what is going on here in Somaliland."

In an audio tape released last week, the spiritual leader of radical Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, himself from Somaliland, ridiculed the breakaway region's continued attempt at democracy and independent statehood, saying that despite its nearly two-decade quest the region remains isolated and politically divided.

Somaliland authorities blame al-Shabab for October 2008 suicide bombings that rocked its capital city and tarnished its image as a pocket of peace and stability in the region.

Somaliland has cooperated with the West in anti-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts, hoping to achieve its long-awaited recognition.


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