News / Africa

Calm, High Turnout in Somaliland Elections Despite Isolated Clash

Michael Onyiego

Despite isolated incidents of violence, high voter turnout and relative calm have marked the presidential elections Saturday in the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. Saturday morning local time across the northwestern region of Somalia as Somaliland, an autonomous but unrecognized nation, looks to cement its democratic credentials among the international community.

Ballots are being cast for three presidential candidates: Incumbent President Dahir Riyale Kahin, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo and Faisal Ali Warabe.

Silanyo represents the Kulmiye party, seen as the main rival to President Kahin's UDUB or United Peoples' Democratic Party in Somali. Presidential elections were originally scheduled to take place in August of 2008, 5 years after the previous presidential poll, but instability in the Sanaag and Sool regions in the east forced the delay.

According to the Joint Coordinator of the International Election Observation team, Michael Walls, the voting has gone well. "The mood is pretty good," he said. "There is quite a relaxed environment in most places. Many of the queues are extremely long, but voting seems to be progressing pretty consistently. Things seem to be progressing pretty well. The reports we are getting from the different regions from our observers also are by and large pretty positive."

According to Walls, voter turnout has been high for the region. Reports indicate that Somaliland citizens began arriving at polling stations as early as 3 a.m. Saturday morning and the observer estimated that roughly one-third of Somaliland's 1,070,000 registered voters had cast their ballot by midday.

While the country is mostly upbeat, reports of violence in the southeast have dampened the mood. Walls revealed that a female member of the Somaliland Electoral Commission was killed in fighting between Somaliland forces and the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn, or SSC Militia in a town 35 kilometers south of a Las Anod. The fighting took place in the Sool region, where the militia is fighting for an independent republic of its own.

Walls said the incident was isolated and took place in an area where some violence was possible.

In contrast with its neighbors to the east and south, Somaliland has been relatively stable and democratic for the past two decades. In 1991, when the overthrow of Mohammed Siad Barre in Mogadishu plunged the rest of the country into chaos, Somaliland declared independence and continued governing.

The country now boasts two peaceful parliamentary elections and a presidential election in 2003 which was widely observed as free and fair.

Walls says these elections have so far met the same mark, though a peculiarity in Somaliland culture could see them fall just short of international standards.

"In 2005 and before the term we used was 'reasonably free and fair.' I think in the context of Somaliland transparency is prized a lot more than secrecy," he said. "A lot of votes are cast in the full view of and in consultation with or where the voter is telling the officials and the observers and the agents in the polling station who they are voting for."

"So to that extent there is a lot of practice there that you would say wasn't consistent with a lot of what is thought of as international standards. On the other hand there is a very, very minimal level of intimidation that any of the observers have reported so far," he added.

There was worry that threats of reprisals against voters from Islamist group al-Shabab might keep people from voting, but Somaliland's citizens have been so far undeterred. Al-Shabab controls much of south and central Somalia and is fighting the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu to establish an Islamic state in the Horn of African Nation.

While no incidents involving al-Shabab have been reported, the Somaliland government has taken no chances. The autonomous state has shut down its borders and forbidden movement inside the country.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid