The present political climate in Riyales’ Government, in which opposition parties are not able to operate freely and safely, is in no way conducive to the holding of free, fair, and credible Presidential elections scheduled first on March 2009 or the new date of the Somaliland Commission has declared to be on May 31, 2009. The primary obstacle is neither logistical nor technical, but rather the determination of the Riyales’ Government ruling Party (UDUB) to control the electoral process and restrict basic freedoms as they have done previously on presidential and local government elections. The recent ruling of the Somaliland Elderly or Gurti has extended the Riyale and his government another six months has caused more confusion, anger, disappointment, dishonest and dismay among the Somalilnd people (Locally and in Diaspora) without clear justifications.
Somaliland government recommends postponement of elections until the conditions conducive to a free and fair poll are claiming by reasoning the unsettled disputes on the recent Somaliland voter registration and server malfunctions, but this justifications has no place in the Somaliland Constitution, which clearly stated,” The Only way the Gurti can postponed an election or extend the president term is only and only if there is a catastrophe or war which makes impossible to hold elections, that is Article 83.
The refusal of Somaliland Commission or setting-up the date of the up-coming Presidential election on May 31,2009 and later agreed on the Gurti decision on September 27, 2009 is another indication of buying the time to delay by any means necessary the election timetable. This shows clearly that Mr. Riyale is not only acting the President of Somaliland Nation but also a Commander of the Somaliland Commission as well as the House of the Elders.
Somaliland Political Parties (KULMIYE and UCID) must recommend concrete steps that educate Somali Landers for their rights and the Somaliland government can take to minimize yet further human rights abuses and even greater intimidation of Somaliland citizens in exercising their right to elect their representatives. Such as free and safe demonstrations, free media, free votes, free movements, free trade, free basic rights and free human rights.
The Riyales’ government has launched an aggressive nationwide campaign to pressure voters into signing up with the party. In addition to monitoring opposition party members, it is following the activities of groups it considers politically suspect, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), students and academics. Yesterday, the Riyale Government have distributed an order letters to all Somaliland Hotels not to allow KULMIYE Party to held their meetings at their hotels. This is remind us one of the strategy of late President Siad Barre has had intimated Somaliland Citizens.
Media regulations issued for the election campaign period has not rectified opposition political parties’ lack of equal access to the broadcast media.
International and local observer groups have to make much of a presence in monitoring the electoral process.
Under the circumstances, there is no way elections scheduled for so called September 27, 2009 can be free and fair, and no chance that a deeply flawed and delayed electoral process will help Somaliland either establish democracy or bring an end to disruptive Riyales’ government activity by a disgruntled opposition. We therefore believe that the elections should be held as specified by the Somaliland Commission on May 31, 2009 and not postponed. We caution, however, that holding the elections in a timely fashion alone will achieve little unless the Somali Land Citizens and the international community speaks with one voice in setting forth the conditions that must be met to guarantee a fair election and backs that up with significant economic and diplomatic pressure. If the momentum toward meeting the May 31, 2009 date can be halted, we believe the International Community — many of whom were instrumental in the peace process of Somalia-organized elections — have a particular responsibility to try and ensure the safety of the voters and reduce the likelihood that the voting will be manipulated, without at the same time lending legitimacy to the process by providing “technical assistance” to the Somaliland government.
The most important step the International Community could take at this stage is to ensure that as many qualified observers and monitors arrive in the country as soon as possible, to act as a deterrent to political violence and intimidation of voters and candidates in the months that remain, to monitor the actual polling and vote-counting and protect the secrecy of the ballot.
In addition, if elections go forward, the donors should also insist on a minimum set of conditions that are entirely within the Somaliland government’s power to meet, even at this late date. The government should be asked to:
Take immediate and concrete steps to assure the electorate that how they or their village vote will not be traced back to or used against them. The best way to do this would be by moving the location of the ballot count from the commune to the provincial level and providing extra security and additional international monitors to accompany the ballot boxes during transport.
Revise the media regulations established for the electoral campaign period to enable immediate and full access of all parties to government-owned or -controlled media and the right of ownership by political parties of private media, as well as the right of political parties to broadcast or print political statements. Amend the media regulations to disallow pre-press censorship by the National Election Commission, which is in violation of Somaliland’s Constitution and press law. Broaden the amount of airtime for all political parties and improve the content of election coverage by facilitating election programming on television and radio by independent NGOs (round table discussions, talk shows, and the like).
Make public statements to underscore the secrecy of the ballot, explicitly stating that voters should vote their consciences and are in no way be holden to any pre-poll pledges that may have made to vote for any party. Such statements are likely to ring hollow, however, unless a massive international monitoring presence is in place.
Publicly acknowledge that the U.N.’s coordination of international observers, as well as the presence of significant numbers of electoral observers, should extend beyond the vote count to monitor the post-election transition.
Impose sanctions from the election law on parties that coerce or pressure villagers to join or pledge to vote for them, although how free villagers will feel to raise complaints about coercion in the current climate is a real question.
Meeting the above conditions will not necessarily guarantee a fair election, but it might reduce the possibility of abuse and intimidation. It will then be the responsibility of the International Community to begin work immediately on a program that will at least try to ensure that Somaliland moves in a direction that will make future elections fairer.
Finally, we urge the Riyale Government, the political parties, the Somaliland Commissioner, the house of Representatives, the House of Elders to meet and come up another reasonable date of holding the Presidential elections to save the country for further calamity, confusion and destruction.