Residents of Somaliland voted Saturday in a long-delayed presidential election. Despite the killing of an election observer, incidents of minor violence, and threats by al Shabab, the voting appears to have gone fairly smoothly, though the lack of a secret ballot in some places was at odds with international standards. Turnout was high. Vote counting continued yesterday. Results may come later this week or early next week.
VOA reports on the stakes:
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.
The New York Times has more:
The government seems unpopular, partly because Somaliland is still desperately poor, a place where even in the biggest towns, like Burao or the capital, Hargeisa, countless people dwell in bubble-shaped huts made out of cardboard scraps and flattened oil drums. Most independent observers predict the leading opposition party, Kulmiye, which means something akin to “the one who brings people together,” will get the most votes.
But that does not mean the opposition will necessarily win.
In many cases in Africa — Ethiopia in 2005, Kenya in 2007, Zimbabwe in 2008 — right when the opposition appeared poised to win elections, the government seemed to fiddle with the results, forcibly holding on to power and sometimes provoking widespread unrest in the process.
This generalization about African elections is not necessarily helpful for understanding Somaliland, but we’ll have to see how credible the final results appear. At any rate, numerous outlets are saying that if outsiders perceive the election as decent, that could help bolster the case for Somaliland’s independence. That consideration could reduce the incentives for the regime to tamper with the outcome.