In their first press statement since sworn in, the new National Election Commission has announced that the constitutionally mandated presidential elections scheduled for November 13th will be delayed. The Commission stated that elections will be held in nine months starting on October 1st, and cited time, technical and financial constraints as the reason for the delaying.
The selections, confirmation by parliament, and swearing-in of the new National Election Commissioners have dragged on for months and were completed on September 7th, 2022. The previous Election Commission, led by Mr. Abdirashid Riyoraac, dissolved following a dispute among the commissioners and an accusation of corruption that prompted an investigation by the Auditor General’s Office.
The opposition has accused President Bihi of orchestrating the disbandment of the election commission to ensure elections are not held on time. President Bihi has countered the opposition’s accusation that the delay was caused by opposition members of parliament who failed to confirm replacement commissioners.
The opposition parties of Waddani and UCID have welcomed the statement from the Election Commission, although they have in the past opposed presidential term extension and staged protests where at least six civilians were killed and scores injured. It is unclear if the argument of which election, presidential or national political parties, comes first is settled between the President and the leaders of the opposition parties.
President Bihi has argued that the new parties currently amid registration are the only ones eligible to take part in Presidential Elections, whereas the opposition parties have argued that the President is trying to eliminate the current opposition parties and that the presidential elections come first.
Earlier this week, Members of Parliament approved a motion to amend the election laws Number 91/2022 and Number 14. The amendment ratified the combination of presidential and political party elections where the presidential elections will be participated by Waddani, UCID, and the ruling party of Kulmiye and the other parallel election will decide which of the new or existing parties will qualify as a national political party. Somaliland law stipulates that only three political parties can exist for a term of ten years. It is unclear if the Senate and President will approve the proposed amendment to codify it into law.
The National Election Commission’s statement that it cannot hold the presidential elections on November 13th, 2022 paves the way for the Somaliland Senate, which has the constitutional power to extend the presidential term to start deliberation and approve term extension for President Muse Bihi Abdi. In the past, the Senate has ignored the extension period recommended by the Election Commission and has given past Presidents two-year term extensions. This will be the sixth time presidential elections are delayed in Somaliland.
Despite the normalization of election delays and pitched political disputes in election season, Somaliland has earned high praises for its ability to hold one-person, one-vote elections and peaceful transfers of power. It is unclear if the latest delays in presidential elections and continued political jostling will effect in its quest for international recognition.