Conclusion of the Voter Registration Process and Election Preparations

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1 Somaliland Non State Actors Forum Location: Jigjga-yar, Badda As, Behind WHO Office Tel: +252-(2) , Website: Date: October, 23/ Briefing Paper: 9 Conclusion of the Voter Registration Process and Election Preparations Summary The process of voter registration started in Somaliland on 15 th January 2016 with new technology termed the IRIS system and peacefully completed in six regions of Somaliland on 29 th September The National Election commission (NEC) has begun the distribution of the voting cards in Adwal and Sahil region on April 2017 and successfully completed the last two regions of Sool and Sanaag on Aug 29, This voter registration process was central and fundamental principle for Somaliland towards achieving a free and fair presidential election on November 13 th The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has adopted a well-coordinated and improved system of IRIS biometric technology which was used for the first time in voter registration in Somaliland. The technology used by NEC to register eligible voters has effectively detected and prevented voters that attempted to register more than one time in all the districts and regions of the country. The technology of IRIS biometric system has replaced the fingerprint biometric system that has been exercised in voter registration, which was used only for the presidential elections of The domestic observers have been deployed to observe and report on the performance of voter registration throughout the process on the use of new technology of IRIS biometric system and there were no complaints on the technology and the political parties indicated their satisfaction and confidence of the voter registration process. The new IRIS biometric technology accomplishes such credible voter registration system, which is locally validated and configured and this technology partially resolved the past election problems in Somaliland and will pave the way for future elections must be held in a timely and progressive manner. According to NEC announcement, a total of 873, 331 voters have been registered across the six electoral regions of Somaliland to participate in the November 13, 2017 presidential election. Eventually, it was a historical day for all Somalilanders, once NEC has ultimately declared the final voters list (FVL) on October, 10, 2017 which is a total of 704,089 voters.

2 Introduction For the last two decades Somaliland has been struggling to overcome its electoral challenges such as lack of proper and reliable voter registration which remained a continued obstacle. Other major shortcomings were also the failure to hold timely elections, external dependence of the elections financing, absence of political commitment and incapability of the technical and institutional development of the electoral process. Moreover, the National Electoral Commission neither has specific Act of responsibility nor constitutional mandate to further consolidate the electoral system. Hence, building competent and credible electoral institutions are required to demonstrate a coherent electoral integrity and predictable poll. The successful conclusion of the voter registration exercise has revealed the possibilities for restructuring and redefining the overall electoral process of the country. Many Somalilanders argue that the political parties are primarily the base and the key stakeholders of the electoral process but they lack most attributes of the institutional development such as internal democracy, agenda setting and ideological differences. Thus, there was a constant occurrence that allowed the ruling party to often maintain its leadership through unconstitutional term extensions as successive elected presidents that included Dahir Rayale Kahin and Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Siilanyo) have done. Therefore, it is clear that the political parties perform as ad hoc institutions that are generally activated during the election time and whereby their general assemblies are also hijacked by few individuals that are the close supporters of the chairman of the party. There is no dispute that all the three political party general assemblies which were elected the current three presidential candidates unveiled the great internal divisions within the Parties starting with the ruling party of Kumilye in 2015, followed by Waddani and Ucid in This is a sign of unhealthy political parties performance on the country s democratic agenda and most Somalilanders are not happy with such democratic deficit. Many citizens are pondering on how elements of good governance can be realized in these existing political processes. Meanwhile, the national constitution which was approved through public referendum in 2001 seems to be dogmatic political framework and any democratic and electoral reforms cannot be conceived without reviewing and reopening it. At present time, the House of Representatives and the local council elections were further postponed to 2019, without a roadmap since election delays has become a political tradition in Somaliland s post constitutional democracy. The House of Representatives election was hampered by the unresolved issue of regional representations. This awaits the new upcoming president after the November election to take a coordinated and coherent action to resolve the regional seats allocation, which some of the regions like Awdal and Sool are seriously contending and advocating increasing the number of seats of the House of Representatives for these regions. It is also clear that without revising the constitution, it is impractical to change the number of seats which are currently a total of 82. However, the 2017 voter registration process was much more agreeable and credible and can be an electoral tool to mitigate the chances of the conflict in the polling day or any attempted fraud during the tally process. The process of the voter registration was more participative and inclusive and the IRIS scan technology has helped make the system consistent and intact. 2

3 Based on the final results of the voters registration NEC has also fixed the total national polling stations for the November election at 1,642 polling stations, with the average voters per polling station set around 427. The establishment of the final voters register is an imperative step taken to the right direction of free and fair presidential election on 13 November The celebration of the final voter registration list is the conclusion of pre-election stage of election planning process. The Political Context and Electoral Process This presidential election has a greater number of contending issues compared to 2010 presidential election, these include the geopolitical dynamics in region given the Gulf crisis, the Berbera corridor project, the Emirate military base in Berbera, and the dialogue between Somaliland and Somalia has contributed to a stimulating agenda for the presidential candidates. However, the signing the campaign code of conduct by the political parties, which is restricting unauthorized campaigns combined with the Presidential decrees stating equal access to the state media and banning the use of the state resources for political campaigns have all signaled out the establishment of a political atmosphere that is more acceptable and moving forward. On the other hand, the opposition parties have accused the ruling party of KULMIYE on using the state resources for its campaign on several occasions, while the presidential decrees issued on September 30 th 2017 imposed more restriction on the government employees and the use of state resources for campaigning purpose. The presidential candidates signed the code of conduct on September 30 th 2017 which is expected to administer the campaign procedures, party campaign schedules and penalties. There are some key political and social actors and institutions, which are very relevant stakeholders to the election such as the constitutional court, the House of Guurti, civil society and other informal powerful groups such as traditional elders, religious leaders, business communities and the Diaspora communities. The House of Guurti which is the Upper House of parliament in one hand and a traditional organ on the other is required to be more neutral and not to partake in election campaigns since House of Guurti is anticipated to play a significant role in the pre-election and post-election period, aftermath, such as, mediation interventions if some conflicts arise among the presidential candidates. In the recent past, the House of Guurti was losing its integrity and credibility in leading the essential political negotiations and reconciliation among the clans due to two main reasons (a) the House of Guurti was blamed to be loyal to the ruling party often by endorsing the political motions from the president such as the extensions of the terms for president and vice president (b) the House of Guurti had also lost most of its honored and heavyweight members (who passed away largely due to age) and their replacements were not welcomed or cheered at all. Regarding the constitutional court, it was spared the unpleasant experiences of the dispute over presidential elections which it has not encountered recently. But the courts are needed to closely monitor other relevant aspects such as police and security forces behaviors including illegal arrest. The other significant actor is the civil society which plays various roles in the overall electoral process such as pre-elections, Election Day and post elections. The Somaliland civil society advocates for free, fair and peacefully election to be held. The domestic election observers are the largest election monitoring mission that has been deployed in Somaliland in 3

4 the 2010 presidential election and the 2012 local council elections and in the 2017 presidential elections the civil society will deploy 620 domestic observers across the polling stations. In the meantime, it is unfortunate that there are clear signs that Somaliland is gradually losing its indigenous and traditional instrument of conflict resolution since the key traditional elders such as the Suldans, Ugaas, Boqor, Garaad, are all displaying their political views by supporting the political parties or campaigning for them and this has damaged the impartiality and credibility of the traditional elders. At least the religious leaders have not yet broadcasted their involvement in such partisan arrangements by campaigning for the presidential candidates. On the other hand, the business community and people from the Diaspora have an expected greater role in the electoral process and elections. The business community plays mostly a positive role, although some business people get involved in the financing of political parties campaigning with the aim to exchange on business concessions. But the Diaspora community engagement in this electoral process has both positive and negative aspects: (a) the Diaspora community has widely supported the political parties formation, financing, agenda development and democratization process in general and (b) the Diaspora community also is divided in this due to partisan sentiments and mostly have poor knowledge about the socio-economic, history and political context of the country and generally get engaged in factors which can trigger escalation of conflict and serious partisan competitions. Furthermore, there are some predictable challenges such as poor knowledge of the local media on the electoral process. The election media code of conduct does not regulate the social media which is the most precarious and unregulated segment that spreads rumors, fake news, tribalism and many other features that promote violent actions or acts contrary to electoral laws and integrity of the election. This is compounded by the poor level of the voter education which has often a greater impact on how the voters are casting their votes and presenting their voter ID to the registered polling stations. Another major political event was the election of the speaker of the House of Representatives that was contested on August, 27, 2017 after the chairman and presidential candidate of WADDANI resigned the chairmanship of the House of Representatives. However, this House Representative Speaker election ended in dispute due to the margin of the vote tally which was only one vote. The result was rejected by the candidate from the opposition party WADDANI who raised concern that he was the winner and later the constitutional court returned the case back to the House. Finally, the dispute over the election of the speaker was resolved through compromise and consensus building when the WADDANI opposition party decided to terminate their claim to the position of the speaker and this reflects the past political culture of Somaliland which is based on negotiations, forgiveness and dialogue which are all instruments that facilitate reaching of amicable solutions. Currently, the most pressing election related issue is the cost of deployment of the political parties agents whereby each political party intended to deploy 1642 persons which means that each political party needs to have presence in every polling station. Meanwhile, the international community is also very much committed to a presidential election that is free, fair and peaceful according to their last press statement on October 4 th 2017 which emphasized and urged the election stakeholders to respect the election laws, code of conducts and create calm during the campaigning period. The members of the international community that issued this press 4

5 statement are Belgium, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States of America. Conclusion The Somaliland presidential elections on November 2017 will have more significant political impact on domestic, regional and international levels. The Geopolitical dynamics in the region and beyond may have some amplifying factors of the election competition and the anticipated results. Furthermore, to elaborate on this narrative the traditional international community is often much more consistent than non-traditional international community and in this presidential election both actors are watching closely. In terms of the election preparation, the Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) seems to be technically and logistically organized and the confidence of the political parties is so far positive and invariable. Thus, the signature of the presidential candidates on campaign code of conduct has reduced the tensions and confusions created by the earlier unauthorized political parties campaigning activities. In this regard, the main remaining aspects of the election include the polling day management, vote counting and result announcement. This forthcoming presidential election could be the milestone for indicating the move from political stability to sustainability. Finally, the signed agreement on October, 20, 2017 between Somaliland Khatumo leaders was an imperative step forwarded both country s political solidarity and electoral consolidation where the poll was extended to new districts in the eastern regions as Sool and Sanag in this presidential election of Policy recommendations: Political parties The Political parties must respect the constitution, the presidential election law No.20/2001 (20017), and code of conduct signed for administering and monitoring of the election campaign. The presidential candidate of each of the three political parties have obligation and responsibility to give orientation for party s supporters, monitor their conduct and inform them to remain within the limits established by the law. The Political parties and their representatives must be familiar with the provisions of the Law of presidential and local council elections Law No.20/2001(2017), especially provisions stipulating procedures of polling, opening and closing of the polling station, procedures relating to counting votes, disputed votes and results announcement at the polling, region and national level. 5

6 The Political parties and their representatives must be familiar on how to fill formal complaints. The Political parties are also required to deescalate any tensions that may arise during the campaigning period. Presidential candidates have the responsibility to orientate their supporters to keep the peace, stability and remain calm. National Electoral Commission (NEC) The NEC should show its decisive role and responsibility to regulate the conduct of the political parties, government officials and security forces, to make sure that they abide by the laws and code of the conducts all the time. The NEC should maintain effective coordination with the security forces at national, regional, district and polling station level. Plan security and safety of both personnel and election equipments. The NEC should enforce penalties applicable during campaigning period and in accordance of the election law and code of conduct. The NEC should immediately address and deal with matters relating to complaints made on the media and make timely communication on the issue. The NEC should give orientation to the police personnel and make sure that all police personnel are aware of their roles and limitation while working on security and safety of the election. The campaigning period needs to be strictly regulated and monitored on the basis of the election law and code of conducts. NEC must be critical and the consistent of the Election Day management by ensuring the compliance of the presidential election law, code of conducts and designed procedures. NEC has also mandate to regulate media during the campaign, Election Day and post elections regarding the code of conduct signed. Government Relevant Institutions- Police and Ministry of Interior The incumbent president is responsible for the security of the election and post elections through the police command and other attached security institutions. Police who are working on the election need more orientation and training in order to reduce incidents and breaching the procedures of the election. Police must be impartial and avoid actions contrary to constitution, election laws and code of conducts. 6

7 Police who is responsible for the security of the polling stations must deal with citizens as laid down by the constitution, presidential election law and procedures. Any intimidation and discrimination of the citizens due to the favor of partisanship is forbidden and intolerable. Security sector institutions specially police must protect constantly the rights of the citizens equally and through constitutional manner. Election raises tense conditions which are requires often referring back to the constitution, elections laws and code of conducts in order to address these tensions. Civil society Civil society is undertaking a lot of activities supporting the conduct of free, fair and peaceful election on November 13, Civil society is required to be more knowledgeable and proactive on issues related to elections whilst civil society is going to manage the largest election observation mission which is 620 domestic observers. Civil society engagement on civic and voter education is crucial prior to the elections, informing the voters and citizens in general can improve the overall electoral process and mitigating electoral challenges at micro and macro level. Civil society engagement on dialogue and facilitation among political actors cannot be underestimated. It is recommended that civil society continue such interactive policy dialogue and consensus building. Media Somaliland media has very vital role for the democratization process and promoting freedom of expression, civic education and promoting free and fair elections. Media is needed to regularize and adopt the media code of conduct which is intended to administer the media effort in the campaign period, Election Day and post- elections. Media reporting about the election process should be accurate, knowledgeable, credible and not upsetting the general public. Media must avoid any issue or act that may exasperate conflict and tensions. Media has a role to educate the general public by promoting a common good, harmony and nationalism. 7

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