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Somaliland Gears Up For Legislative Poll
The legislative election pits the ruling party, the Union of Democrats, against the opposition Kulmiye (Solidarity) party and the Welfare and Justice party. An estimated 800,000 out of Somaliland's estimated 3.5 million population are eligible to vote.
The polls are the republic's third since it declared its unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in May 1991, following the collapse of the administration of former President Siyad Barre.
Somaliland conducted municipal elections in December 2002, which were followed by the presidential poll in April 2003 in which the incumbent, Dahir Riyale Kahin, retained the seat.
Electoral fraud and violence
In the run up to the polls, campaigns were marked by violence and a ballot scam, with the police seizing 150 fake ballot papers on 22 September at the territory's main airport.
Also on the same day that the fake ballots were seized, a shootout occurred between security forces and members of an alleged Al-Qaeda-linked group on the outskirts of the capital, Hargeysa. Three policemen and a suspected militant were reportedly wounded in the ensuing clash.
According to Somaliland security forces, five suspects were arrested and a cache of weapons - including improvised explosive devices, anti-tank mines and machine guns - were impounded after the shootout.
In the aftermath of the clash, hundreds of foreign Islamic clerics, who were without legal papers and were not legitimate businessmen, were ordered to leave. The government accused them of harboring and colluding with the suspected militants.
Amid the flurry of political activity that has preceded the poll, Somaliland has experienced a brief economic boom.
Somaliland traders say business is booming: traders in khat (a mild stimulant chewed by most Somaliland men), tea shop owners, bus operators, truck owners and newspaper vendors have all reported an upward trend in their sales.
Khat has been in huge demand recently, with candidates using it to win over potential voters.
"My sales have shot up since the campaign started a-month-and-a-half ago. By midday I don't have any stock left in my store, the price has also increased by 25 percent," Farah Mohamud, a Hargeysa-based Khat importer, said.
A bus owner, Hussein Ismail, said: "My bus used to idle in stands waiting for passengers to transport to estates and towns, but now I am being hired by candidates every day, six or seven times to ferry supporters to stadiums."
He added: "It has really improved my earnings, I am able to repair my bus and buy new tires."
Newspaper vendors also reported increased sales in recent weeks as the thirst for information about the campaign and candidates grew.
In 2001, Somaliland held a referendum in which a majority of the population backed its self-declared independence.
Somaliland has managed to avoid much of the anarchy that has dogged Somalia over the past 15 years. However, the territory is embroiled in a border dispute with the northeastern semi-autonomous state of Puntland over the regions of Sanaag and Sool.