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Issue 539/ 26th May - 01st June 2012
Somaliland: Pre-Election Consultation Forums On Upcoming Local Council Elections
The Local Council Election planned for 2012 represents a crucial aspect of Somalilandís continued transition to multi-party democratic rule which began in 2001, when a referendum on the constitution ushered in the adoption of democratic multi-party system of governance. It marks the 2nd phase of that transition and coincides with the legal opening up of the number of political associations that can compete for accreditation as the three national political parties allowed by the constitution.
Somaliland has a track record of holding regular multiparty elections in the past ten years. Four largely peaceful, free and fair elections were held since 2002, which contributed to Somalilandís own model of democracy and nation-building, peace and harmony in its society. But this progress has not been without its own challenges, chief among them which is the capacity and extent to which national institutions, broadly-speaking, and election management bodies specifically, facilitate constructive management of electoral process, particularly, electoral dispute management. An impressive democratic aspiration evident in the general population has been somewhat frustrated by persistent confrontations over successive elections. One of the lessons learned from the past election disputes is the importance of identifying controversial issues that must be resolved in advance of an election to avoid quarrel and misunderstandings. Thus a pre-election consultation will help to identify and remove contentious issues, which can generate conflicts, in a timely manner.
Somaliland needs to hold credible and successful elections not only to demonstrate the continued maturity of its political system and the consolidation of its democratization process but also to help in the national pursuit for international recognition.
Somaliland Non state Actors Forum (SONSAF) has conducted a nationwide consultation process from 26th February to 31th March, 2012 to appraise the electoral environment ahead of the upcoming local council elections in 2012. The objective of the pre-election consultation was to determine the major problems or obstacles that may affect the forthcoming local council elections, as well as, to generate appropriate strategies to address these constraints in order to ensure that free, fair and peaceful election is held in time. The consultation forums and focus group discussions were attended by an estimated 1000 participants from the different sections of the Somaliland society across all regions. They include traditional/religious leaders, women, youth, political parties and associations, civil society, legal experts, members of the House of Representatives, Guurti and government officials.
The 2012 Local Council Election is proving to be one of the most competitive elections since the adoption of multi-party politics in 2001. This is a reflection of the high stakes attached to this election, since it will determine the three legal and national political parties that shall exist in the next ten years. This also means that these successful parties shall be fielding candidates for both the House of Representative and Presidential elections in the next decade. It is also a reflection of the relative evenness of the electoral playing field as a result of opening up of the number of political associations that can compete in the upcoming election and the growing maturity of Somalilandís democratic experiment.
The report describes the political, electoral, civil society and media that reflect current politically charged environment. With little time remaining from the anticipated election date, important issues related to the elections remain unresolved. The term of office of the present local councils shall expire on 7th April; some new political associations have started complaining about the screening process and are threatening to take action. Civil society is mobilizing to provide civic /voter education and possibly election monitoring while continuing to operate in a difficult funding environment and relations between the private media and the government continues to be strained.
identifies a series of potential problems in the period remaining prior
The Somaliland Non State Actors Forum (SONSAF) is a non-profit, nonpolitical and nonpartisan foundation established in 2008. SONSAFís mandate is to strengthen non-state actors to engage in domestic and international policy dialogue and decision making. SONSAF focuses on poverty reduction, development, good governance, democracy, peace and security and other issues of importance to Somaliland.
SONSAFís past undertakings in Somalilandís democratization process include the mobilization, training and deployment of local observers and recruitment of polling station electoral conflict mediators for Presidential election of 2010, as well as, conducting a review of Somalilandís elections in the past ten years.
Though Somaliland has conducted and implemented four national elections that were regarded as free and fair by the international observers in the last ten years, the country continues to face persistent challenges in carrying out its elections.
Therefore, it is of national necessity to carry out consultations on how to rectify then shortcomings and weaknesses which were identified in the past elections and others that may emerge during the forthcoming local council elections in 2012. Past challenges include postponement of election dates, poor management of the election processes Ė delivery of voting materials, voter education, lack of clarity in the legal process, poor training of NEC regional staff, lack of independent conflict resolution system, and electoral fraud such as rampant multiple voting, among others. Such issues must be resolved in advance of an election to avoid errors and misunderstandings that can lead to conflict. The goal of holding a credible election is a must for Somaliland because the opposite namely failed or flawed elections would be too costly.
The objective of this report is to present the main obstacles, ideas for removing the obstacles, opinions and suggestions voiced in the contributions received from the nationwide participants during the consultation process. It is based on the comments made during the consultation process and includes issues raised in the regional forums where the elections have been discussed. The views expressed are those of the contributing individuals.
Usefulness of the Consultation:
Understanding the opinions and perceptions of voters about the issues and factors that can affect the upcoming elections is crucial, because it helps to examine the practicality of holding elections and creates support for the process.
The consultation process
has created a platform for dialogue in the run-up to the 2012 elections
by bringing together representatives of all the electoral stakeholders
such as the
The process has also facilitated the participation of all stakeholders nationwide, particularly, the voters.
As Somaliland heads towards holding Local Council elections in 2012, it is imperative that stakeholders agree or reach a consensus on what needs to be done to have a credible outcome of such an election as a basis of the acceptance of the results.
The consultation process
started with Literature review on the past elections and the general
political context of Somaliland, as well as, the preparation of the
consultation tools and process.
One SONSAF team led by the consultant facilitated the two national conferences and the 8 focus group discussions (FDGs) held in Hargeysa, the capital. The consultant has also conducted the 10 one-to-one interviews with selective individuals of national stature. Two SONSAF teams have also visited all the five regions outside the capital and organized 17 consultation forums attended by participants from all the sectors of the society.
The consultation discussions were very lively and objective. Besides their contribution to the public debates, the participants were also given the opportunity to fill a six point questionnaire sheet, to identify potential obstacles that can impede holding the upcoming election, to reason their choice and to present solutions and recommendations for action to be taken in order to eliminate these obstacles before the Election Day.
To see the full report go to >http://www.sonsaf.org/resources/index.php?lang=1