High stakes for Somaliland’s presidential elections-Report

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The stakes are high for Somaliland’s presidential elections scheduled for 13 November 2017. After more than two years of delays, voters will finally have the chance to be heard. Given that President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud ‘Silanyo’ is stepping down, the contest will result in fresh leadership. This report sheds light on some of the pivotal political and security issues facing Somaliland at the time of these crucial elections, providing a background on the process and raising some key concerns.

By Omar S Mahmood and Mohamed Farah

Introduction

The stakes are high for Somaliland’s presidential elections scheduled for 13 November 2017. After more than two years of delays, voters will finally have the chance to make their voices heard. Given that President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud ‘Silanyo’ is not standing for re-election, the contest will result in fresh leadership regardless of the outcome. This report aims to shed light on some of the pivotal political and security issues facing Somaliland at the time of these crucial elections, providing a background on the process and raising some key concerns going forward.

This report was written in partnership by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the Academy for Peace and Development (APD), a think tank based in Hargeisa. The findings are based on fieldwork conducted in Hargeisa and Berbera in late July-early August 2017, and again in Hargeisa in mid-September, combined with extensive desktop research. More than 30 interviews were conducted with a range of actors, including government ministers, opposition politicians, civil society members and other activists and observers.

The 2017 presidential elections

Background to Somaliland’s political system

Somaliland occupies an ambiguous position on the international stage. For the past 26 years it has been a self-declared independent nation replete with effective governing structures, yet has not received recognition from any other nation.1 This lack of international recognition complicates many aspects of its political and security situation, most notably its relationship with the internationally recognised Somali Federal Government (SFG) in Mogadishu, which still lays claim to the territory.

Somaliland’s history has engendered a unique political system incorporating traditional leadership aspects with modern constructs. Parliament consists of two houses – a Lower House (House of Representatives) of 82 elected parliamentarians, and an Upper House or Guurti of 82 clan elders, originally appointed during clan conferences in 1993 and 1997.

The Guurti institutionalises traditional governance dynamics and the clan system in the Somaliland arena, giving rise to its hybrid nature. The Guurti, discussed in more detail below, has played an important role in Somaliland’s history, settling disputes on the basis of consensus and serving as a neutral arbiter.

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224638-High Stakes for Somaliland’s Presidential Elections

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