Mar 16, 2011

Somaliland: President Invites the Public to Multi-Party Debate

A committee with members from the political arena, civil society and academia will discuss reforms of democratic institutions in Somaliland, particularly focusing on the rules concerning political parties.


Below is an article published by Somalilandpress:


President Ahmed Silanyo on Monday [March 14, 2011] issued a press release in which he said he was open to new suggestions and debate on the issue of multi-party system.

Even though, Somaliland is multi-party country with viable democratic institutions, many groups have been calling for more parties than the current three. They believe more political parties would increase the diversity of viable voices in the political dialogue in the country.

The previous government led by President Dahir Riyale limited the number of political parties to the current three – United Peoples Democratic party (UDUB), Justice and Development party (UCID) and the ruling Peace, Unity and Development party (Kulmiye).

During the election campaign, President Silanyo promised to pledge state support for those wishing to form new parties while inviting blacklisted parties to join his Kulmiye party. One such party to compromise with Silanyo and Kulmiye party was the unregistered Qaran party (The Nation) led by the current Interior Minister Dr. Mohamed Abdi Gabose and Finance Minister eng. Mohamed Hashi Elmi.

The statement from the office of the President said that President Ahmed Silanyo was not ready to neither scrap the ban nor pour cold water on the issue but will weight on mainstream views. He said he has set up a committee of twenty members to study and explore the best options for political reforms for the country.

In bid to satisfy everyone’s appetite and engage with the public, the President listed individuals from all walks of life in the committee — they include representatives from the existing three parties, NGOs, MPs, tribal elders, religious groups, students and academia, human rights organizations, minority groups, women advocate groups, businesses and government advisers. The President added he was fulfilling his campaign promise to the public.

While many have welcomed the move, others expressed concerns saying the rise in political parties might open a Pandora’s box which will allow each tribe to create their own political party thus dividing the cohesiveness that has made Somaliland democracy a model in this region. They also argue three parties are more than enough for a nation with relatively small population like Somaliland.

Those who are for simply argue that under a true democracy, there should not be any restrictions.

In 2002, during the formation of Somaliland’s multi-party system, more than ten parties had registered. The legislation stated a party must receive at least 20 percent of the popular vote from four of Somaliland’s six regions in order to advance to the next stage.

Six parties met this criterion and went into a battle to further minimize the number of parties in the country. A constitution was agreed on that only three parties with the most votes will be approved. The electoral commission announced the current three parties received the most votes. The other three parties had to merge with one of the three.

Somaliland withdrew from a never rectified union with its neighbor Somalia in 1991 after a bloody war against Dictator Mohamed Siad Bare. It is often described as a peaceful, multi-party system democratic state but remains unrecognized.

Somaliland combines traditional and western institutions to form its own hybrid system. Many have recognized its unique system which is the backbone of its stability and its abilities to resolve internal disputes.

Last week, a Kenyan delegation consisting of 20 lawmakers visited the country for few days to study and document the local Parliamentary system called Gurti, customary law system known as Xeer and other indigenous alternative dispute resolution mechanism. They revealed they will try to apply it in their own country especially in hot-spot areas such as the so called rift-valley.