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A GREAT STEP FOR SOMALILAND
ISSUE 196
Front Page
Index

Headlines

US Assistant Secretary Of State For African Affairs Praises UNISA Engagement With ‎African Countries Such As Somaliland

Security Forces Close Down Borama’s Private Radio Station

Ruling Party Shown Winning Parliamentary Vote

Ethiopia Technical Team Visits Berbera Port

US State Department Meeting Recommends Stronger Engagement With Somaliland

Somaliland: CIIR's Election Observers Release Interim Report

Seminar On Somaliland Between ‎Yesterday And Tomorrow

Health

 

International News

Pirates Hijack Ship Off Somalia

Resume Dialogue, Annan Urges Leaders

Swedish Police Release Former Somali ‎Militiaman Accused Of War Crimes

Police Brutality, Arbitrary Decrees And Filthy Prisons ‎Make Puntland A High-Risk Region For The Press  

Somalia Says Range Resources Mineral And ‎Oil Rights Deal Is Invalid

Yemen: Somali Migrants Defy ‎Smugglers, 21 Dead

World Poets' Tour - October 2005‎

Too Many Guns, Too Little Food In Somalia

War Blamed For Spread Of Desert In Somalia

Somali Anger Over Swedish Arrest

Race Bullies Rule The Roost In Classrooms

Abdillahi Yusuf’s Transitional ‎Government And Puntland Oil Deals

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

A GREAT STEP FOR SOMALILAND

Nursing Wounds, Somali ‎Enclave Dreams Of Nationhood

UNBROKEN CHAIN "Gaariiye in UK"

People

 

Editorial & Opinions

The Latest Assault On The Independent ‎Media

Letter To Faisal Ali Waraabe

Somaliland Seeks World Recognition‎

What Are The Prospects Of Investing ‎In The Federal Republic Of Somalia

If Qaybdiid is culpable of crimes of genocide, ‎So are Yusuf and other Somali Warlords

In Response To The Article Titled” The Better Memo ‎To The Canadian Premier Minister Paul Martin.”‎


(Travel article by Gunnar Kraft and Sandra Jensen )

Peaceful parliamentary elections‎

Copenhagen, Denmark, October 5, 2005 (Danish Refugee Council) – The old woman walked slowly into the ‎little hut built of a mixture of wooden sticks and old plastic sacs from UNHCR. Her hands were carefully ‎examined by the young man in the doorway, holding a small ultra violet lamp. Satisfied with the lack of ‎invisible ink, he allowed her to dip her left little finger into the small bowl with ink. ‎
She obeyed his directions and continued to the table in the middle of the room, where the chairman greeted ‎her. She stated her name, age and place of origin and proudly continued with "I would like to vote for Tuke ‎from Kulmiye". The chairman patiently explained that she had to take the stamped ballot paper and go ‎behind the bright green curtain placed in the corner of the hut to vote in secrecy. ‎
But the old woman did not care about the confidentiality and felt too uncertain to place the vote on the ballot ‎paper herself. Instead, the chairman marked the requested candidate and showed the ballot paper to the ‎three party agents who were meticulously observing the procedure. They all nodded to confirm that the vote ‎was marked as the woman wished. ‎
The ballot paper was then carefully folded and handed to the woman. Three calm steps to the ballot box that ‎was hanging in four strings from the roof. With shaky hands, the woman slid the paper into the box. She ‎looked up and smiled. She had cast her vote in the first parliamentary election in Somaliland in 35 years.‎
International observers
Thursday 29 September was a big day for Somaliland. The first parliamentary elections since 1969 crowned ‎the row of recent elections: A referendum in 2001, Local elections in 2002 and the Presidential election in ‎‎2003. ‎
Although the parliamentary elections have not been perfect, there has reportedly been much less problems ‎and tensions than in the former elections. The 76 international observers have publicly congratulated ‎Somaliland with its peaceful and reasonably free and fair elections.‎
In order to support the democratic development of Somaliland, we volunteered to take up the task as ‎international observers in the district of Garadag in the East of the country, one of DRC’s programme areas.‎
Ballot box in the field
We started one of two polling stations in Garadag town before 6 am to watch the opening of the show. ‎Nothing was ready on time apart from the people waiting in long queues outside. But with care and attention, ‎the chairman managed to get everything in place to open 6.30 and the first votes were cast without ‎problems. ‎
Confident with the procedure in this polling station, we continued our 300 km tour around the district. Ten ‎very different stations later – ranging from a blanket and a ballot box in the middle of the great, grassy fields ‎to concrete community centers – with only a short list of negative comments in our book, we ended in the ‎other polling station in Garadag to watch the closing at 6 pm. ‎
The long queues had been digested and the station could close its doors in peace. The 667 votes were ‎carefully distributed among the parties and counted and recounted and recounted again. ‎
The final results were noted, heavily stamped and signed and ready to be sent to next level of the chain at 1 ‎pm. The chairman sighed and noted that it was time to go to bed after three days without sleep. Indeed a ‎well-deserved rest.‎
Women eager to vote
The tasks of this election were indeed enormous for a country with such a bad infrastructure as Somaliland. ‎Since no official registration of the inhabitants of Somaliland exists, the voters were registrated when turning ‎up in the polling station. ‎
The only requirements for voting were more than 16 years of age and an ability to speak Somali. ‎
The lack of preliminary registration makes it difficult to assess voter turnout, but it seems to have been high ‎‎– in our own small survey in Garadag district, we never met any potential voter who had not cast his or her ‎opinion. ‎
Women seemed particularly eager to cast their votes, although only seven had taken up the challenge of ‎running for election.‎
Upcoming democracy experts
In a country were up to 80% are illiterate and election experience is so limited, substantial voters’ education ‎have been necessary. The National Election Committee (NEC) has tried its best to instruct the voters about ‎the process. ‎
In order to make it easier for the illiterates, each candidate was given a symbol which could be found next to ‎their name on the ballot paper. However, these symbols do not seem to have been promoted heavily enough ‎in the campaigns, and several symbols were also too much alike to serve the purpose.‎
We cross our fingers that the peaceful atmosphere and the good spirit will continue when the results will be ‎known in a couple of weeks and the 82 seats will be distributed. So far, it seems that the ruling party is up ‎for a major defeat, but since clan affiliations are much more important than the vaguely defined party lines ‎this might not cause any problems as long as all the clans are represented.‎
Democracy is all about learning-by-doing. If the people of Somaliland continue in this way, they will all be ‎experts in democratic elections in few years time.‎

Borgergade 10, 3rd floor • PO Box 53 • 1002 Copenhagen K • Phone +45 3373 5000 • Fax +45 3332 8448 • ‎info@flygtning.dk


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