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Issue 427 -- April 03-09, 2010
The Somaliland Independent Scholars Group: Set A Political Campaign Ethics
29th March, 2010 Hargeysa, Somaliland
The ISG members held their regular monthly meeting at the Academy of Peace and Development (APD) on 29th March in order to discuss and assess the overall progress made towards the planned presidential election. The meeting was sponsored by the Social Research and Development Institute (SORADI). It was moderated by its Acting-Director, Haroon H Ahmed Yusuf. The Somaliland Independent Scholar’s Group (ISG) members are all long-term participants of Somaliland rebuilding and democratization process, who are considered to be highly competent to provide an objective analysis and strategy to address the issues at hand. The ISG members are: Abdi-shakur Sh Ali-Jowhar (Psychiatrist and political analyst: warkamaanta.com), Amina Mohamoud Warsame (Executive Director of NAGAAD); Abdilkadir H Ismail Jirde (Ex-Deputy Speaker and Member of Parliament- now travelling), Shukri H. Ismail (Former National Electoral Commissioner and Member of African Democracy Forum and Chair of Candle Light); Ibrahim Jama Ali –Raite (Member of Parliament and Lawyer), Fawsi Sh. Yonis (Somaliland Lawyer’s Association); Abdi Ahmed Nour (Forum for Peace and Governance-FOPAG), Bobe Y. Duale (Research Coordinator, APD), Haroon H Ahmed Qulumbe (SORADI), Jafar Mohamed Gadaweyne (SONSAF); Mohamed Hassan Ibrahim (Researcher-APD), Suad Ibrahim Abdi (Researcher-APD); Wais Muse (Executive Director of Samatalis Coalition of Human Rights)), Dr. Mohamed Fadal, Director of (SORADI);Muse Abdi Elmi (U. of Hargeysa; Dean Academic Affairs) Dr. Yusuf Kariye (Researcher in Anthropology; Hinda Mohamed Jama (an Associate of Burao University); Dr. Aden Abokor(Progressio Country Rep.)..
II. The Current political climate
Somaliland remains stable and without any major politically sensitive events during March, 2010. However, public interest and debate on the upcoming elections continues unabated. Many members of the public seem to be caught in a permanent pause and anticipation for the Presidential elections. In other words, they are waiting for the announcement of the date for the Presidential election from the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
NEC is busy with the preparation for the election and insists on the fact that they are not ready to set a date yet. One of the critical issues which NEC is currently addressing is a planned Voter List display, which is expected to take place in all the voter registration stations. This process also includes the issuing of new registration cards in the place of the corrupted ones from the past registration.
There is slow but increasing public realization of the importance of the Voter List display event and hence, the need for more detailed information about the process. If the display period takes place without a hitch most of the voting day headaches could be avoided.
The international community’s interest and support for Somaliland’s stability and progress in holding the scheduled elections remains high. This is indicated by both the frequent visits of international delegations and invitations extended to both government and opposition leaders by friendly countries.
One concern for Somaliland’s democratization process is the developing culture of negative political “campaigning style” or popularization proceedings adopted by the political parties recently.
There was a rise of relentless personal attacks of political opponents in recent strategies, practices and maneuvering by political parties.
Political Campaign Ethics
The political party officials regularly indulge in smear campaigns during political forums, events and public appearances, rather than sticking to the issues. One of the popular strategies utilized by all parties is to organize events that are designed to welcome political actors that have deserted one party and are joining another party. These events offer opportunities for influencing public opinion in favor of parties; however, they have become forums for attack and counter attacks.
Some of these targeted smear campaigns occasionally take serious negative personal attacks, which could lead to instigation of clan antagonism and spoil the national political sanitation.
Some experts suggest that negative campaigning are used more to ‘blunt’ an opponents chance of winning the election than to promote the sponsoring party or candidates own image or characteristics with their constituency.
Disagreements should be based on issues, and focused on political party or government policies and actions. If there are allegations of wrong doing by a political party it is better to use the style of instant rebuttal by the accused party without resorting to negativity.
There is a need to create a political culture based on rolling debates between parties and candidates, as well as, political functionaries, responding to campaign issue positions in an interactive way. Democratic elections are about friendly rivalry not slander, bitterness, hate and instigation of violence.
People want to hear about solutions to the various problems they face every day, not the antics and tit for tats among the political elite.
At this stage, when the all important election is just a few months ahead, responsible leadership in all political parties should assert itself over over-enthusiastic supporters to see that things are kept under control and the fair name of Somaliland’s democratic record have received over the years from all concerned do not get tarnished in any manner whatsoever.
NEC and the Voter list display & new cards:
The planned electoral display period appears to be very critical for preparing the grounds for the Election Day. This means if the display programme is conducted and managed appropriately, the majority of the conflict-causing issues can be easily resolved. If everyone comes out of the display period happy we should have eventless elections.
NEC has put in place all the regional and district NEC personnel.
NEC has selected a South African company to print the new cards in order to save lead-time to the elections.
NEC says that the main stakeholders are aware about the type of voter list that is sent for printing. They add, this is not the final list, anyway.
What NEC needs to address
1. No body disputes that NEC has the right and responsibility to set the date for the election, whenever, they think is right, but they need to remember the huge interest of all the actors on the hearing a date set.
2. There have been some misleading rumors about the election date recently. Therefore, NEC should respond and correct them immediately, if they appear.
3. NEC should have clear emergency response plans and mechanisms.
4. There is an obvious public demand and interest in learning about the specific dates for voter display and election. Therefore, it is NEC’s responsibility to satisfy that demand.
5. Preparation for the election needs to proceed in parallel with other processes. The suggestion is to start ordering logistics, transportation etc to safe time.
6. NEC needs to call a meeting of the major stakeholders to analyze and agree what constitutes a political campaign before things get out of hand. NEC also point out to the stakeholders the rules and statutes which set the limits that the campaigning style should not transgress and activate the Code of Conduct.
7. NEC needs to urge all concerned to exercise self-restraint and refrain from indulging in smear campaigns and personal attacks.