In contrast to Somaliland, which is currently preoccupied with voter registration in the midst of unpopular conflict in the Sool region for the selection of political parties and presidential elections, Puntland has not fully grasped the application of democratic principles like transparency, accountability, and citizen participation, despite the fact that democracy is generally regarded as a system that does so.
In Puntland, opposition groups say that the leader, Said Abdullahi Deni, wants to extend his term beyond January of next year or help tip the election in his favor. Deni has not discussed the allegations in public.
On June 20, 2023, Puntland forces and opposition fighters engaged in ferocious street battles in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, as the local parliament discussed constitutional changes including the introduction of one-man, one-vote elections.
The tension over proposed changes to the Puntland’s voting system resulted in the deaths of 26 and injuries to 30.
Puntland, the oldest member state of Somali Federal Government, has been known for its political system, which is often characterized as a “mock or delusional democracy” due to various shortcomings
Recently, UNSOM released a glowing report on local elections that were held in several Puntland villages and were widely regarded as a significant step toward democratization in Somalia.
Here are some of the issues associated with the mock democracy in Puntland and the negative consequences they have brought about:
Puntland’s political landscape has been dominated by a few powerful clans and individuals, leading to a limited pool of candidates and little opportunity for meaningful political competition. This has resulted in a lack of diverse perspectives and alternatives.
The absence of robust democratic institutions and mechanisms to ensure accountability has allowed corruption and nepotism to flourish. Public resources are often misused or embezzled by those in power.
In the mock democracy of Puntland, the rule of law is often compromised, with the influence of political elites undermining the independence of various the agencies. This leads to a culture of impunity, where individuals with political connections can evade justice.
While Puntland frequently restricts citizens’ ability to participate in political processes and voice their concerns, genuine democracy promotes active citizen participation. Dissenting voices may be silenced, freedom of speech and assembly may be restricted, and civil society organizations’ efforts to promote transparency and accountability may be hampered.
Puntland’s political instability and involvement in conflicts outside its borders, such as the ongoing insurgency in Las Anod, have been fueled by the flaws of its mock democracy system.
It is essential to keep in mind that these criticisms are not restricted to Puntland only; they can also be found in a variety of situations in which the democratic system has been compromised. A commitment to genuine democratic reforms, such as strengthening institutions, promoting transparency, enhancing citizen participation, and upholding the rule of law, is required for efforts to address these issues.
Guest article first published on SII