London/Hargeisa, 1 November 2021
The elections marked an important moment for democracy in Somaliland: after
significant delays to both polls, they marked the first time that national and local
elections have been held together
Says Professor Michael Walls of DPU, Chief Observer on the mission:
“While these elections represent democratic progress, they were held 11 years after
the originally envisaged expiration of the parliamentary term, and more than three
years after council elections were due. It is good news that they were peaceful and
accepted as credible by stakeholders. However, uniquely in Africa, not a single
woman was elected to Parliament. This is a serious democratic deficit, even marking
a step backwards from past, already low, levels of female representation. While it is
cause for celebration that Somaliland has continued to hold elections, it is also time
to focus on seeking ways to strengthen the procedures in place for the next poll, due
in 2022 and those that take place after that.”
The elections, which occurred under the challenging circumstances of the Covid-19
pandemic, and under Somaliland’s consolidated General Law for National Elections
and Voters’ Registration, represented progress along Somaliland’s democratic path.
There were many positives, notably the election of a member of a ‘minority’ clan to
parliament, the improved electoral law (albeit still with too much left to the discretion
of electoral and political authorities), and the fact that media coverage was generally
regarded as balanced and responsible. Importantly, election day itself and its
aftermath passed off peacefully, with Somalilanders once again turning out
enthusiastically to vote.
However, there are also aspects of the electoral process that require improvement to
reach international standards. The voter registration process in particular is
complicated and restrictive for voters and potential voters and, in the absence of a
census, cannot describe with precision what proportion of the possible electorate is
registered to vote.
Furthermore, the mission calls for three profound changes: reform of the restrictive
political system in which only three political parties are permitted to contest elections,
which severely curtails democratic representation; Somalilander-led legislative
measures to ensure female political representation; and political re-commitment to the
agreed constitutional electoral timetable so that future elections are held on time,
banishing the long tradition of electoral delay in Somaliland to the past.
The mission’s final report also makes a number of additional recommendations,
including enhancing voter education and the secrecy of voting, better training for
polling station staff, and an improved system for counting and tabulation of votes.