Somaliland Decides: Over 1.2 million Voters go to the polls tomorrow

Just over one million Somaliland citizens are expected to file out on May 31 to cast their ballots in the country’s first parliamentary election since 2005, with 246 candidates running for 82 seats.

The voters are also expected to elect 249 local council representatives across the six regions from the 747 candidates on the ballot.

Somalilanders say the election would offer an opportunity for the self-declared sovereign state to show the world how much progress it had made over the past three decades since Hargeisa, its capital city, was totally leveled in a brutal civil war with southern neighbours, Somalia.

“It is an opportunity to show that a country that is not on anybody’s map, that is not recognized, is doing things by the book,” Edna Ismail, the country’s first female foreign minister, told a group of international election monitors on Friday night.

Indeed, Somaliland has a point to prove. The country of about four million people has struggled – more from the sweat of her citizens than international assistance – to rebuild from the ruins of the civil war.

After gaining independence from Britain in 1960, the Republic of Somaliland joined the former Italian-colonised Somalia to form the Somalia Republic. But the union failed to live up to the people’s aspiration. In 1991, after years of violent conflicts, the people of Somaliland withdrew from the republic and reinstated its sovereignty. The country’s application to join the Commonwealth and the African Union, however, remains pending.

The election on May 31 is symbolic: it is not just the first time parliamentary and local elections are held on the same day; it would also mark 30 years since the country’s independence from Somalia Republic and 20 years since its first election.

“Somaliland represents an example of an African country which is committed to democracy and development and deserves the support of every African who wants to see progress on this continent,” said Greg Mills, Director, The Brenthurst Foundation, the leader of the Somaliland’s International Election Monitoring Mission (SEMM).

“Democracy and peaceful progress are essential to growing economies so that they can provide employment and opportunities for their people,”says Greg Mills.