16.11.2022: Hargeisa, Somaliland (Somalia)
On Tuesday, Somaliland’s regional government urged opposition parties “to follow the law, the constitution and the electoral process and desist from any action that could incite political unrest or violence”. The administration insisted that it would adhere to the new election timeline set by the National Electoral Commission – a timeline rejected by the opposition parties.
This comes after reports emerged of gunfire and violence in the towns of Burco and Ceerigaabo as images circulated on social media showcasing individuals brandishing weapons. Protests in the town Burco on Sunday saw three men injured and a further four police officers also suffering injuries.
‘No President in Somaliland’
Earlier this week, opposition parties declared they did not recognise Muse Bihi as being President of the Somaliland region as his legal term expired on the 13th of November.
Opposition figures went on to argue that the extension was not permissible under the Article 88 of the Somaliland Constitution and did not follow the correct procedure while simultaneously ignoring the plight and interests of other political actors and parties. Instead, opposition figures argue that they will only accept the original framework put forward by the regional electoral commission.
The rejection of the presidential mandate extension fuels concerns about renewed regional tensions and political violence.
It was in August when deadly protests broke out in the region with demonstrators demanding elections be held in November amid suspicions President Muse Bihi Abdi wanted to delay the poll and extend his term. Clashes between security forces and opposition protesters killed at least five people and injured another 100 which was the region’s most deadliest clashes in a decade. Opposition politicians and human rights groups condemned the police brutality against civilian protestors by the Bihi administration.
Complex Multi-Party System
Somaliland’s multi-party system currently only allows for three parties to compete in legislative and presidential elections on a national level. However, the three parties must be renewed every decade meaning that one party cannot exist beyond ten years. At the beginning of each decade, political associations compete to secure a spot on the ballot.
A last minute attempt to alter this system to allow more political parties to compete in the Presidential election was rejected by opposition parties earlier this year, citing inconsistencies and alleged attempts by the incumbent President to dilute opposition influence.
Somaliland Political Association Forum (SPAF) which represents nine political parties appeared to back the government by calling for the political associations’ election to be held before the presidential election.
On Tuesday, the SPAF said that all nine political associations were just as eligible to run for the top leadership positions as any other political party in Somaliland. It added that stakeholders could only solve the current electoral stalemate through dialogue.
It was last month when Upper House of Somaliland’s regional parliament known as ‘House of Elders’ voted to extend Presidential and government terms for another two years, an act which was previously predicted and condemned by opposition parties.