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Regular Elections Can Save Somaliland from a Crisis It Cannot Afford

Somaliland is marching towards a full blown political crisis precipitated by fears of electoral delays.  This crisis risks plunging the country into instability, undermining the nation’s gains over the last three decades.

The opposition leaders over the last few weeks have stepped up their rhetoric threatening to mobilize their supporters. Abdirahman Irro, the presidential candidate of Waddani party, asked his supporters to wait for his signal — presumably for them to come to the streets. On his part, Faisal Ali Warabe, the veteran chairman of UCID party, literally threatened president Bihi with citizens breaking into the presidential palace to eject him.

The ruling party leaders  also contributed to the escalating rhetoric during their celebration of the 20th anniversary of Kulmiye’s establishment. The Minister of the Interior, Mohamed Kahin, raised the tempo when he claimed that his party is up against unionist forces as he alleged Faisal Ali Warabe suggested joining Somalia in a confederation union in a recent meeting. Predictably, Faisal shot back angrily on Twitter saying that the minister’s allegation was the same justification for the bloody civil war in the 1990s.

The list of allegations and counter allegations is long, but the bottom line is that it increasingly seems it could lead to street confrontations if not worse. .

More than anytime in its history, Somaliland cannot afford that. Somaliland is in a volatile region where instability seems to be the norm and peace the exception. Spillovers of chaos are not unheard of  in the region when the homefront is weakened.

Somaliland also has the unique vulnerability of lacking international recognition which theoretically would have protected her from the most destructive foreign interference aimed at undermining the polity altogether. Somalilanders have long understood that the only guarantee for their independence was their strength rooted in a stable government and a majority united behind the independence  project. Any prolonged political crisis is a threat to the consensus of that majority and an opening for those malicious interferences.

More recently, those intentions to undermine Somalialnd’s polity are strengthened by Somaliland’s recent entanglement in world geopolitics. This involvement took the shape of rapprochement with the U.S by offering her a naval base in Berbera and an affront to China with the establishing of diplomatic relations with Taiwan accompanied by cavalry dismissal of China’s reactions. Nevertheless, China has been boosting its presence in the region and is not shy to let Somaliland know of its displeasure. When Somaliland’s minister of Foreign Affairs visited Taipe, Peking issued a strongly-worded condemnation and immediately sent  military gear to Mogadishu. Most recently,  the recent visit of the  U.S Africom forces to Hargeisa and Berbera facilities  coincided with China dispatching its  41st navy to the Gulf of Aden in an ‘anti-piracy and terrorism’ mission.

Considering all this, Somaliland can ill afford a political crisis at this juncture.

Fortunately, Somaliland can avoid this political crisis and all risks associated with it. The way to do that is to respect Somalialnd’s founding social contract and follow through with the  democratic process.

The constitution of Somaliland clearly stipulates a democratic system with two basic tenets – elected leaders and regular elections.

Somaliland had nailed the first part from the beginning. It never had an unelected president or a person attempt to assume power without the consent of the electorate. That has paid off nicely with a peace generation that could lead the country to the next level of development.

However, it struggled with the second tenet as electoral delays are a constant feature of the political process. Recurring political crises always followed those delays which had to be resolved with a mixture of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms and international mediations.

As Somaliland is facing unprecedented challenges, those remedies are no longer suitable.  A robust system that needs fewer interventions is overdue. And that is for Somaliland to nail the second tenet of its democracy — holding regular elections. .

Regular elections held in specific time intervals  are indispensable for political stability. For one,  It opens up the opportunity for peaceful assumption of power to all who can convince their fellow citizens of their worth. That clearly decentives anyone from seeking power by extralegal means. Secondly, regular elections lower the stakes in each contest.  If elections were few and far in between, each election would be contested fanatically. As a matter of life or death. And finally, without this regularity, it would be harder for losing parties to accept results as there is no other opportunity in sight.

It is this regularity, the assured return of the chance, that makes competing in an election the most cost effective path to gaining power for anyone who is seeking it. When Somaliland fails to make elections regular, what loses is this critical safety valve of its governing system. It is about time we fixed that.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mr. Abdillahi Hassan is a broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker based in Hargeisa, Somaliland. He can be reached at abdiplastaro[at]gmail.com 

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, or viewpoints of Somaliland Chronicle, and its staff. 

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Notice: This article by Somaliland Chronicle is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International License. Under this license, all reprints and non-commercial distribution of this work are permitted.

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