Delegates from Somalia’s northern region of Somaliland on Wednesday elected six senators to serve in the next Federal Parliament, in spite of lack of interest in a part of the country that has declared its independence.
The vote, held in Mogadishu, saw 46 delegates from the region elect six legislators, who will nonetheless cement Somalia’s hold on Somaliland as part of its territory.
The first seat was won by the Speaker of the outgoing Senate, Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, receiving 44 votes while two abstained. His opponent, Said Omar Hussein, quit the race just before the voting, indicating that Abdullahi ran unopposed.
Abdullahi’s victory was important as he had bickered with Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Gulaid over the electoral team, delaying the polls. Both the outgoing Speaker and the deputy prime minister are the senior-most officials from Somaliland, a region that has claimed independence from Somalia since 1993, but which no sovereign state recognises.
Ahead of the elections, the region issued a statement rejecting any association with Somalia’s politics. It runs its own government, regularly elected. It also has its own army, currency and central bank.
The election, nonetheless, closes one chapter of wrangles and could smoothen the path for Somalia’s next elections for the Lower House representatives.
On a list of nominees handed over to Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble last week, Speaker Abdullahi was listed as the sole candidate for the first seat. However, Somalia’ Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Gulaid announced on Monday night that a candidate will run against Abdullahi following consultations with clan elders.
The contest for the second seat was just as stiff. Somalia’s current caretaker Minister of Justice Salah Ahmed Jama vied against former chief justice and head of the Supreme Court, Ibrahim Idle Saleban. Jama won the seat.
The third seat was equally tight, but was won by Prof Abdi Ismael Samatar, a US-based scholar who also regularly teaches in South Africa, who received 25 votes. He defeated Prof Mohamed Mohamud Allabari, who attained 21 votes in the second round while a third candidate, Abdurahman Osman Ali, could not go past the first round.
An interesting contest for the fourth seat followed when the caretaker minister of Information, Osman Abukar Dubbe, was challenged by Abdikarim Mohamed Hassan. Dubbe won the seat by garnering 28 votes against 17 for Hassan.
The fifth seat was easier, as Mohamed Mohamoud Abdi conceded in favour of Layla Ahmed Ismael. At the podium, Abdi said he had quit in favour of Ms Ismael, saying, “Layla contested four years ago and was not given a chance,” he said, insisting that ‘his sister’ deserved a chance this time.
The contestants for the sixth seat were Bilal Idris Abdilahi and Zeinab Ahmed Boqore, the second female contestant in today’s six seats. Abdilahi won the seat, getting 37 votes against Boqore 8 votes.
The election of the representatives from Somaliland was delayed due to months of squabbling between Speaker Abdullahi and Deputy PM Guled, before an agreement was reached on sharing the leadership of the electoral committee last month.
Last week, the two leaders jointly published a list of candidates to run for posts for the Upper House of Somalia’s bicameral federal parliament.
According to the State Electoral Implementation Team, the committee in charge of managing the Somaliland election on Wednesday said the remaining five Senate seats will be contested on Thursday.
Khadar Harir Hussein, the head of the Somaliland electoral committee, thanked all the participants, including the mayor of Mogadishu, Omar Mohamed Filish, the delegates and the contestants.
“We shall see you tomorrow in the voting for the remaining five seats,” he said.
The election has taken place at the ‘big tent’ in Afasyoni, inside the highly guarded Aden Abdulle International Airport, with security provided by Somali police and African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) peacekeepers.
Somaliland, an authority that unilaterally declared independence from the rest of Somalia, does not want to be part of Somalia. Last week, the leaders in Hargeisa condemned the inclusion by Mogadishu of candidates from the region in Somalia’s elections.