Why Elections in Somaliland are neither free nor fair?
Election is a formal process by which a population elects an individual to hold public office. It is also a tool for selecting legislatures in local councils, parliament and even people for the uppermost houses. Under the Somaliland constitution, all the people whose age is above sixteen will be allowed to cast their vote. Elections in Somaliland empower ordinary citizens to express their rights to pick leaders who will be able to shape the Somaliland future. These privileges can only be granted if elections were held through free and fair means. It is the duty of the Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) to prove the ambitions of the People in the country given numerous challenges that has always been used to prevent an election from being “free and fair in Somaliland, in the following paragraphs methods used to hamper efforts to enhance transparent elections are described below:
There has been gaps within the Somaliland electoral systems. Among these are included interference from the incumbent government, Non-governmental entities had also interfered with elections, through physical force, verbal intimidation, or fraud, which resulted in improper casting or counting of votes, fraud, failure to validate voter residency, fraudulent tabulation of results, and use of physical force or verbal intimation at polling places.
However, I am not sure whether the present technology is secure, but whether it can cover the whole country. If yes, it is ok or else the possibility for multiple voting is maximized. If the latter is the case; then NEC together with the government should explore alternative options, ensuring coverage in remote areas in order to wipe out multiple voting and other malpractices likewise seen in the previous elections. And If Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) disregards in addressing the issue; the whole system will be in jeopardy.
Moreover, The other irregularities that cannot be seen at the polling stations is that when ballot boxes returned to the district election commission center; it is where rigging and altering ballot papers in favor of favored candidates started. When results announced no complaints are taken into account for the reason that the governments in Somaliland do not want the fabrications of the election results that have occurred during the elections to be revealed because they are of the view if any vote rigging were revealed it would affect both the election commission and the government.
It seems that NEC despite many years of existence, they have not gained any lessons from the previous mistakes. In addition to that, the Somaliland electoral system is not permanent, but provisional commission, another factor contributing to a series of failures in almost all elections that took place in Somaliland
Somaliland performed a biometric voter registration exercise in 2008-2009, with fingerprints and facial recognition, and much effort was devoted to cleaning the voting register, but the former National Election Commission failed to provide accurate and credible lists. However, this time around the current NEC must be careful to turn the voter registration system to be a flop.
The data received from the registration system will have to be used for redesigning demography and polling stations in order to avoid voter suppression, rigging, multiple voting, etc. Unlike before, the current polling stations in Somaliland were designed by former president Rayale with no data to be referred and the outcome has caused political troubles in many communities.
To this end, voting card should have been given for registered citizens eligible to vote prior to election date and the electoral office will have posted the list of eligible voters by election date at each and every polling stations besides the same old tale of rigging, fraud and multiple voting will continue unabated.
The role of the Government is vital because it pays all expenses incurred to well run for the elections, including to that of security, logistics and salaries for the staff and security. They can also cut funding and reduce security staff for Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) to deliberately manipulate election results. Moreover, it has been a common practice of the previous regimes to intervene once balloting has begun by intimidating voters and by manipulating the count of votes that have been freely cast.
NEC needs to reinstate the confidence and integrity of our electoral system and above all the trust that people are holding on them. They should introduce reforms correcting the irregularities and injustices and other malpractices likewise seen in the recent elections and come up with policies and rules that are able to protect people’s votes.
Therefore, we need to modify our election system keeping away from similar incident of the past to occur again because anything that enhances the election system enhances transparency in democracy and above all the government system.
Abdirahman Ibrahim Abdilahi