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Somaliland President Shuts Down Parliament After Impeachment Motion

The president of Somaliland has forcibly closed the breakaway republic's parliament after it began debating impeachment charges against him, just a few days after elections were indefinitely postponed. The speaker of Somaliland's Lower House of Parliament accuses of the territory's leader of dictatorship.

Security forces controlled by Somaliland President Dahir Riyale stormed into the parliament on Tuesday and removed the members. Since that time, security forces have locked up the parliament building and refused access to legislators.

Tensions flared up in the Lower House of Parliament after the body's legal advisor ruled that an impeachment motion from a member of parliament was constitutional and could be debated. The ruling resulted in a physical scuffle allegedly instigated by members loyal to the president.

After one member of parliament, known for being a staunch ally of the president, brandished a gun, police moved in and forcibly adjourned the meeting.

The speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Abdurrahman Abdillahi, accused the president of purposefully orchestrating the brawl in order to justify stopping the impeachment proceedings.

"The plan was just either the motion would stop, or the parliament building would be confiscated by the security forces of the president. We have requested the president to remove these units from the parliament building, but there was no heeding," he said.

The president's move is just the latest in a string of actions that critics point to in accusing the Somaliland leader of abuse of power and systematic disregard for the law of the land.

Earlier this week, the election commission indefinitely postponed elections schedule for later this month, citing the deteriorating political environment and the president's decision to hold the poll without voter registration lists. It was the third announced delay of the vote that was originally supposed to take place 17 months ago.

A term extension granted to President Riyale is set to expire in October.

The speaker of the Lower House said the leader is turning the office of the presidency into a dictatorship.

"We think these are the characteristics of an immanent dictator. He does not respect the constitution, he does not respect the laws, and that is the normal characteristics of an immanent dictator," he said.

The Somaliland MPs have announced they and their staff will attempt to peacefully re-enter the building Saturday. The speaker said if this action fails, they will just keep trying until the situation is resolved.

Watchdog groups fear the political crisis in Somaliland is threatening the existence of its young democracy, rare in a region marred with conflict.

The territory declared its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 after the country's last functioning central government toppled. But the rest of the world has yet to recognize its statehood.