Somaliland lacks Serious Opposition Parties

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By Liban Ahmad

 

A couple of weeks the Democratic Steering Committee  of the International Community  urged Somaliland  government to honour the  the Electoral Commission’s time-frame    to which opposition parties — Wadani and UCID — have agreed. This week the Somaliland House of Elders ( Guurti) extended   President Silaanyo’s term in office to two years— almost  one  year more than the June 2016 time-frame. The Guurti decision has angered Somaliland political parties and prompted the UN Representative for Somalia, Nick Kay, to urge Somaliland government to reconsider the Guurti decision. The International Community views   the Guurti decision as detrimental to “stability and democratic process”.

To understand how the political deadlock has come about one has to   refer to  Somaliland local elections in 2012. Wadani, the opposition party, is the only  successful  party that joined UCID and Kulmiye, the ruling party , as the third political party. Wadani Chairman, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi ( aka Irro ) , who is also Speaker of Somaliland Parliament, was a senior member of UCID party led by Engineer Faisal Ali Warabe.

By accepting to lead a new party Mr Irro  reduced his former party’s chances of winning Somaliland presidential elections and made his new party  susceptible to  criticisms that he fell for Kulmiye a plot to brand UCID and  Wadani two parties led by two distant Finnish-Somali cousins .

Neither UCID nor Wadani enjoys the level of political support  from non-Isaaq clans that Kulmiye does. Kulmiye  has pushed  the unsuccessful replacement of Irro by  Deputy  Speaker, Baashe Mohamed,  to restore substantive  power-sharing. UCID Chairman  has long argued that Irro should have resigned as Speaker of Parliament when he became leader of Wadani  because his new party  did not exist when he was appointed Speaker on the strength of UCID votes.

In a press conference UCID  Deputy Chairman Ali Gurey said his party did not  agree with Wadani Chairman who had called for nation-wide demonstrations.  It is clear UCID is happy to see Kulmiye remain in power rather than allow Wadani ride the wave  populism and political opportunism.

The major threat to democracy in Somaliland is not unplanned extension of the president’s term in office. It is the emergence of a ruling party viewed more politically inclusive than opposition parties. Kulmiye is on the path to becoming such a party because neither UCID nor Wadani comes across to people as a serious opposition party.  UCID is led by a politician notorious  for unguarded remarks  whereas Wadani Chairman is not committed to the  power-sharing introduced by the  now late President of Somaliland Mohamed Ibrahim Egal.

When the now-defunct UDUB party was in power,  both Kulmiye  and UCID were viewed as serious opposition parties.  Kulmiye, the ruling party, cannot escape the accusation that it had plotted to compete with two parties perceived to be politically less inclusive. The Chairman of Good Governance and Anti Corruption Commission has criticised  the political structure of Somaliland parties and called for leaders to refrain from exploiting clan affinities  to achieve political goals.

The argument by Kulmiye MP, Abdirahman Yusuf Artan, that presidential term extension  would give opposition  parties  time to prepare  themselves for elections is not self-serving. President Silaanyo  is one of founding fathers of Somaliland; he paved the way for the dissolution of Somaliland National Movement and  founded Kulmiye in 2002. Somaliland should contemplate breaking up a party that becomes  too big to be challenged politically.

 

Liban Ahmad

libahm@icloud.com

Liban Ahmad is the author of A Map of Confusion: Somaliland, Puntland and People of Sool Region in Somalia (2005) 

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