By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – Though local council elections preparations are complete the National Election Commission-NEC is yet to fix dates.
This was said by the NEC spokesperson Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Hirsi Gelle, during a media briefing at NEC Hqs in Hargeisa where he revealed that NEC is unable to fix a date for the local council elections due to financial constraints.
While informing that all relevant preparations for the local council elections are complete, Mr. Gelle said that NEC is reluctant to fix any dates until all necessary funds from the government and international donors are in the commission’s account, Said he, “Fixing any dates now when the commission does not have the elections funds will mean similar date fixings if the dates allocated become due while the funds are still unavailable”
According to the spokesperson the NEC will only fix and announce the election dates once the full amount budgeted for the elections is received from Somaliland government which is to pay 25% and the international community that has promised the remaining 75%.
The amount receivable is available as per this year’s budget that was approved by the two houses of parliament earlier this year. It therefore means that the amount not yet availed is the one promised by a number of international donors who have over the years contributed towards the country’s democratization process mainly Britain, Norway and the EU.
During a briefing to parliament’s Internal affairs committee at the end of June the NEC chairman Mr. Isse Yusuf Hamari indicated that “apart from the lack of funds the commission, despite finalizing preparations will be unable to hold elections unless uncertainty over election laws are cleared with either approval or rejection by parliament of the proposed amendments.
The uncertainty of elections laws that was an earlier constrain to NEC seems to have been negated following the approval to the amendments by the House of Representatives last week.
The changes made to the elections laws will see candidates win seats on first to the post rule as opposed to earlier formats that saw candidates elected on a party list are now legal, others changes are related to the use of candidates’ names only without any symbols.
Earlier changes made to elections laws and already law thus in use, include allowing Members of Parliament and Councilors to switch parties and still hold their seats as well as the scrapping of the voters registers thus forthcoming local council elections will be held devoid of a voters register.
On the other hand political parties are in earnest preparation of the local council elections with daily announcement by the nine contesting parties of their candidates from one area or another. The yet to be fixed date seems to be of no particular interest to the political parties since their plans are in full gear as not only because of their selection of candidates but the discernible increase in the number of posters proclaiming the viability of such and such party stuck on walls and on vehicles all over the country.
As a pointer to the preparedness already in place, NEC recently conducted a one day mock elections that saw 120 people from all walks of life participate. The participants at the mock elections that were held at the new offices of the election body, with a number of foreign election observers in place saw an equal division between illiterate and literate voters.
The NEC spokesperson who termed the mock exercise a success immediately on completion revealed that the objective was to test the length of time it will require to serve an individual voter as well as familiarize voters and NEC staff with the new voting strategies that are devoid of election symbols and voters register.