Somaliland: “Swerves on the Road” -IOE 2012 Election Report Part 2


Excerpt II Previous election observation & Local council elections 2012SONSAF domestic observer Yousuf left talks to IEOs Cris Bautista and  Sarah Howard at a polling station in Burao

Somalilandsun – The International Election Observer-IOE Mission to the 2012 local council elections released its final report titled “Swerves on the Road” contained in 40 pages herein to be published chapter by chapter on a daily basis with a link for those readers interested in reading earlier excerpts or downloading the entire report.

Excerpt I Introduction

  1. Previous election observation

We have observed Somaliland’s various local, parliamentary and presidential elections since 2002 (largely funded by the British government) and produced reports on their freeness and fairness. For these missions we liaised closely with a number of local civil society organisations and networks.

For the 2005 parliamentary and 2010 presidential elections Progressio, DPU and Somaliland Focus (UK) were invited by the NEC to facilitate, organise and get credentials for most of the international election observers and to report on what they found in relation to free, fair and peaceful elections.

At the presidential election in 2010 we had 59 observers from four continents and 16 different countries. We covered 33 per cent of the stations in all six regions. We found the elections to be reasonably free and fair, although we noted some problems and made some recommendations to the NEC and others.

Reports on the 2005 and 2010 elections are available from the Progressio website

  1. Local council elections 2012

On 28 November 2012 Somaliland held local council elections, with 2,368 candidates contesting

Wadani Supporters at a rally in Hargeisa379 positions across the country. This report from the international election observation (IEO) mission to Somaliland covers the pre-electoral period, polling and counting on election day, as well as the immediate and medium-term post-electoral period. The report also reviews the electoral legal framework, and the balance of media coverage over the campaign period. The IEO team prepared an interim report for the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and had immediate post- election discussions with the chair and other commissioners on its findings. Copies of the report were sent to donors, including the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Facts and figures

• 379 seats

• 2,368 candidates

• 140 female candidates; 10 were elected

• 7 groups took part: 2 political parties and 5 political associations

• 1,782 polling stations

In its immediate post-election press releases, the IEO team congratulated the people of Somaliland and the NEC for efforts to conduct a credible election. It should be noted that contrary to widely- held notions, the team were unable to declare the election free and fair; it would be reasonable to note that the exercise was largely free but the problems we highlight in this report meant that we could not deem it fair in all aspects. Nevertheless, we do feel that, on balance, the process was credible as an exercise in determining the will of the majority of those living in Somaliland in terms of local government and party selection.

Generally speaking, election campaigning was competitive and pluralistic, with seven different parties and associations fielding candidates. Parties and associations largely respected the requirement to campaign on a specific day of the week, and to desist from large-scale public campaigning in the second and third weeks of the campaign. With the lowering of the age of candidacy to 26 we welcomed the unprecedented numbers of youth, which also manifested as a significant increase in women candidates. While in 2002 only five women contested local elections, 140 did so in 2012, although only 10 were elected.

Election observers

• 50 international election observers (IEOs) including 22 women, and 7 from the

Somaliland diaspora

• IEOs from 17 countries, and from Africa, Australasia, Europe, and North America

• IEOs covered 18 per cent of all polling stations and 15 of the 21 districts in which elections were held

• Domestic observers: 800 observers placed by the Somaliland Civil Society Election Forum

(SCISEF), covering approximately 50 per cent of all polling stations

On election day, most polling station procedures and staff were positively evaluated by observers. Where problems occurred, the NEC usually addressed them quickly and effectively. However, the absence of a voter registry and weaknesses in related safeguards – primarily the inadequacy of the indelible ink – made polling vulnerable to multiple voting. In advance of the next elections, we recommend that Somaliland adopt a robust system for voter/citizen registration, in order to deter fraud and improve confidence in the electoral process.

Concerns remained throughout the electoral process regarding the level of understanding on the part of both parties/political associations and the electorate regarding implementation of the formula in Law 14, Article 6, by which contesting parties and associations could attain the status of registered parties. Under Somaliland electoral law, the term ‘political parties’ (or xisbi) refers only to those associations which have succeeded in registering to contest presidential and parliamentary elections by securing one of the top three positions in preceding local elections. The total number of political parties is constitutionally limited to three. All political associations established to contest local elections are termed ‘political associations’ (or urur). The 2012 local elections would therefore determine which three associations would be registered as political parties for future presidential and parliamentary elections.

While we welcomed the agreement prior to the election to adopt a Code of Conduct in the interpretation of the law, we also encouraged both the NEC and the Registration and Approval Committee (RAC) to continue to work transparently and with clarity as results were declared and the successful parties determined.

Initial localised results were announced as they became available, with the finalBallot papers at a polling station in Burao announcement of the three successful parties made on 26 December. The successful trio were Waddani (Somaliland National Party), Kulmiye (Peace, Unity and Development Party) and (New) UCID (Justice and Welfare Party).

In the event, the calculation behind that decision did seem to be widely accepted, but in spite of that, there was significant dissatisfaction with the outcome. Several political associations were vocal in their criticism of the election itself, and specifically the conduct of the NEC and the

ruling Kulmiye party. Umadda and Xaqsoor were particularly vociferous in their initial complaints, although it was the Xaqsoor association which continued to express its dissatisfaction in the weeks following the 26 December declaration of results. This dissatisfaction centred around the decision to cancel the poll in several areas in Sool and Sanag regions, and (along with the results) the campaigning approach of the government in western Awdal region. Xaqsoor supporters took to the streets in protest, with demonstrations in Hargeisa turning violent. Regrettably, fatalities resulted, with at least one occurring in Hargeisa when police opened fire on the protestors.

While the situation was calmed through the intervention of clan elders and government figures, assisted by calls for peaceful protest from the Xaqsoor leadership, the fundamental dispute persists. This is particularly the case in Awdal, where what was originally a political dispute has taken on overtly clan dimensions. Councillors from the Isse clan continue to dispute the election results, and for a period, clan militia groups were mobilised.

Since the declaration of results, there has also been a round of mergers in which unsuccessful political associations have joined with registered parties. Waddani has agreed to absorb Umadda, in return offering party positions to Umadda officials. Kulmiye has agreed similar terms with the Rays and Dalsan officials, as well as coming to an arrangement with some erstwhile members of the moribund United Democratic People’s Party (UDUB). Perhaps surprisingly, given the level of its dissatisfaction with the government’s role in the election, Xaqsoor has been linked with Kulmiye, though no formal merger had been agreed at the time of writing, and Xaqsoor’s legal challenges stand.

Excerpt 1 Introduction

While the full report shall be published chapter by chapter on a daily basis interested readers can down load the full report “SWERVES ON THE ROAD” AS SOMALILAND CONTINUES TO DRIVE ITS DEVELOPING DEMOCRACY FORWARD here