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

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs