Somaliland elections: Could polls help gain recognition?

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“I cannot wait to cast my vote,” says 15-year-old Yasmin Abdi. “I feel like a proper grown-up now, almost like I own part of my country.”

Eligible to vote in a society where 15-year-olds are considered to have reached adulthood, Ms Abdi is exactly half the age of Somaliland, which celebrated its 30th birthday on 18 May.

Since declaring independence from Somalia it has not been recognised internationally but functions like a nation state – with its own passport, currency, flag, government and army.

“Somaliland could well end up as the only place in the Horn of Africa that has any form of democratic election at all this year,” says the director of the Rift Valley Institute, Mark Bradbury.

The vice-chairman of the governing Kulmiye party, Ahmed Dheere, echoes Mr Bradbury’s sentiments. “I cannot tell you how important these elections are,” he says. “We will be the sunshine of the Horn of Africa if we have successful polls.”

omaliland might be more democratic than some other countries in the region, but its system is far from perfect.

The parliamentary poll is more than 10 years’ late. Municipal elections, which will be held at the same time, should have taken place four years ago.

A senior member of the opposition Waddani party, Hersi Ali Haji Hassan, blames the MPs for the delays.

“Many parliamentarians are greedy and selfish. They have grown fat during their 15 years in the house and are hugely reluctant to give up their seats. I also blame the government because it has benefitted from the status quo.”

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