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|Somaliland Elections Peaceful, Say Observers|
"After consultation, the team noted that the election process proceeded very peacefully and without intimidation. We were all heartened by the high turn out of voters, particularly women, despite the small number of women candidates," Mandla Nkomfe, head of a 12-member South Africa observer mission, said on Sunday.
The 76-strong team - drawn from Britain , Canada , Finland , Kenya , New Zealand , South Africa and Zimbabwe - monitored the elections in most of the 985 polling stations across Somaliland .
The election pitted the ruling Union of Democrats party against the opposition Kulmiye (Solidarity) party and the Welfare and Justice party. An estimated 800,000 eligible voters cast their ballots to elect 82 Members of Parliament from 246 candidates.
"The three political parties were able to present their platform in a competitive fashion, although policy manifestation left little to distinguish them from one another," Steve Kibble, the observers' spokesman, told reporters in the capital, Hargeysa, on Sunday.
"During the voting day the electorate showed a strong enthusiasm and the voter turn-out was high, long queues were observed and parties were represented as observers, which made the voting procedure and vote counting credible," he added.
The team expressed concern, however, about the low number of women candidates in the election and acknowledged that the election did fall short of international standards.
"There were shortcomings during the elections. These include lack of reliable information about the number of voters due to lack of proper census. Furthermore, there was gender imbalance, public media was not equal to all parties and unauthorized spending of public money by the authorities was claimed," Kimmo Kiljumen, a Member of Parliament from Finland , said.
The team also noted that attempts by voters to cast their ballot more than once were a common feature, although they were mostly unsuccessful. In addition, the strict observation of closing time at polling stations meant many eligible voters were unable to vote.
The integrity of the voters was brought into question, given the fact that candidates influenced them on the basis of their clans or used material inducements such as cash or khat (a mild stimulant chewed by most Somaliland men) to win votes.
The observers said they would issue a comprehensive report on the elections before the end of the year.
Preliminary results at the National Electoral Commission on Sunday showed that 105 ballot boxes had been counted in Hargeysa district, with the main opposition party, Kulmiye, capturing 40.71 percent of the counted votes, while the ruling party and the Justice and Welfare party obtained 30.25 percent and 29 percent respectively.
The chairman of the commission, Ahmed Ali Adami, said on Friday that overall results of the parliamentary poll would be released in two weeks.