Somaliland has made progress since 2005 as an emerging democracy with relative stability marking a shift to democratic accountability and Governance through parliamentary elections. In Stark contrast to Ethiopia and other neighbouring countries where elections were marred by political violence, elections were conducted peacefully and were clearly a step in the right direction for an emerging democracy like Somaliland.
The postponement of presidential elections in Somaliland on march 29 for the third time lacks democratic legitimacy and undermines the democratisation process, raises serious questions about the need for checks and balances to curb further excesses by the executive.
The opposition parties KULMIYE and UCID have opposed the extension grounds that it is
unconstitutional. Despite this Rayaale decision has been endorsed by the Somaliland Electoral Commission
Earlier in March 2009 when Rayaale had been to the UK, The Foreign Secretary David Milliband had urged Rayale that “it is essential that the election process is carried out effectively and democratically and that all parties work together to make the election a success”.
Since then Rayaale has not had any serious consultation with leaders of the opposition parties and unilaterally has decided through executive powers to postpone the presidential elections, contrary to the norms of democratic systems thereby endangering Somalilands international status as an emerging democracy
According to the constitution of Somaliland for the term of office of President and his vice president to be extended there have to be exceptional circumstances of national disaster or emergency. Guurti have to agree such a circumstances exist in the first instance and to thereafter determine by a majority vote on whether to extend his term of office.
What is the basis of current extension until 29th October 2009? On the basis of briefings from upper house, the only thing that’s clear is that they Upper house members voted to extend his term of office but this decision remains controversial and undemocratic.
Decision by the Guurti extending the president’s term until 29th October 2009 for the third time has completely undermined multi party politics and consensus.
What is a worrying development in Somaliland politics is that this trend lays foundation of one party rule in Somaliland for an indefinite term especially if the upper house continues to endorse further extensions in the absence of national debate, and consent of the opposition parties.
The incident On April 6th, 2009, when Security Forces opened fire on members of KULMIYE party including the forth coming presidential candidate who were peacefully marching clearly indicates that we are heading into a one party dictatorship.
Rayaale’s party is using state security to silence the opposition and justifying its undemocratic mandate on a pretext of emergency rule on erroneous grounds of lawlessness.
The good relations Somaliland has with the international community in particular USA, European Union, to a certain extent Ethiopia, Kenya and others very much depends on the relative stability of Somaliland as well as democratic values
United States and EU relations with Somaliland depends very much on building on the democratic progress thus far made, the political stability, rule of law and Security.
Presidential elections are most important indicators of commitment to a democratic representation Postponement of presidential elections and misuse of executive powers is hardly a sign of democratic governance and if anything it has halted democratisation process, could jeopardise good relations with our allies who are funding us. It’s also a sign that if we do not reform and curb executive power Somaliland can find itself in similar situations as Zimbabwe.
If the incumbent regime and party continues to hold on to power illegally in the absence of full consent it will increasingly be viewed by the disenfranchised citizens as illegitimate and this will increase political violence and lawlessness in Somali land rather than restore stability.
As in advanced representative liberal democracies, the executive is accountable through Bi Partisan select committees, I believe that in the case of Somaliland there is a need for such committee to scrutinise legitimacy of postponement and misuse of executive power.
The Opposition parties including KULMIYE should not remain in active and succumb to one party rule, such departure by the executive from the democratic norms of governance should not be acceptable in a multi party competitive system.
KULMIYE should in my opinion challenge the legality of the extension of president’s term of office through legal avenues in Somaliland and through diplomatic channels of communications with US, EU, other Governments, as well as through international bodies such as UN, IGAD and African Union to exert pressure on Riyaale and his party.