Somaliland Votes to Elect President
Polls have opened in the Republic of Somaliland, a breakaway nation from Somalia for the third presidential election since 2003.
A VOA Somali reporter in Hargeisa, Barkhad Kariye, says he saw long lines, with some people waiting since 3:00 a.m.
Somaliland lies in northwestern Somalia, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden. It is bordered by the remainder of Somalia (per international recognition) to the east, Djibouti to the northwest, and Ethiopia to the south and west. Its claimed territory has an area of 176,120 square kilometres (68,000 sq mi).
“They wanted to be the first to cast their ballot, people want to make sure they vote before polling stations close,” Kariye said.
Observers say Somaliland is more determined to elect a president this time than in 2015 when elections were postponed as a result of drought.
“We are hopeful for a peaceful election,” said Michael Walls, chief of the observer team.
“One of the ways it’s different is that there is a voter register in place, that register being widely accepted as being pretty robust in terms of eliminating multiple registrations,” Walls told VOA Somali. “The other difference is that the incumbent president is not standing, so it means going into this election we know there is going to be a change in leadership.”
Observers hailed the biometric iris scanning process, which is used for this election, that does not allow multiple registrations.
Turnout is expected to be high. More than 700,000 people have registered to vote and all have collected their biometric voter cards.
“I would presume that the turnout will be very high because the voter registration process involved the people registering and then picking up cards so they have already shown quiet a commitment to the process,” Walls said
There are 1,642 polling stations where voters will cast their ballots. The electoral commission has urged people to prioritize the elderly and the vulnerable.
Reports say security is tight and the army chiefs has said the army will serve whoever is elected president of Somaliland
“We would like to tell the public that the external and domestic security has been secured, they should sleep in peace, do their business in peace and live in peace, we are going to execute our duty,” chief of staff of the Somaliland army General Nuh Ismail Tani said.
“We are obliged to be obey whoever is elected. Right now we are not sure who is going to win so all three of you have our respect, but we appeal to you to care for the interest of the public and keep the peace,” he said to the candidates.
The commander of Somaliland Police, General Abdullahi Fadal Iman, said the movement of the traffic is restricted but borders will not be closed.
“The border is only closed to the enemy,” he told journalists in Hargeisa