Two events cast a long shadow over the forthcoming 2015 biometric registration and elections in Somaliland. The two were the 2008 failed biometric registration and the 2012 municipal election, which was riddled with massive irregularities. To prevent history from repeating itself in 2015, there must an honest effort to learn from those two events and leave no stone unturned to ensure that the registration is done properly and the election ends being free and fair. If the mistakes of the past are not corrected, the consequence of failure may be grave for Somaliland.
Until recently, the Silanyo Administration insisted that, in lieu of voter registration, national identity cards will be issued. The opposition parties were deeply skeptical, arguing that this will open the door wide open to fraud and vehemently rejected the initiative which was started in some parts of the country. Finally, the Administration acceded to segregate the registration process from the issuance of the national identity cards.
The next step is to learn from the 2012 municipal election when election proctors in many precincts violated their fiduciary duties by colluding with candidates for municipal councils permitting massive irregularities. To prevent this from happening again, people selected to supervise the registration and election must be of highest integrity and immune from corruption.
There are expatriates in Somaliland engaged in all kinds of jobs. Why not hire expatriates to supervise this critical of all jobs? The fact is if the staffing issue is not given the consideration it deserves, there will be people who will be willing to spend huge sums of money to corrupt the electoral process, and there will be a stampede to cheat and the whole process will end up failing.
There is a phenomenon in politics that the value a leader holds tends to percolate into the minds of the citizens. Authorities need to enact a law, if it’s not already in the book that criminalizes voting fraud. Additionally, information must be disseminated through the government controlled media- television & radio- that voting fraud is against the law and against Islam since its basically lying and stealing.
The 2015 registration and election must be viewed as an existential matter, not a political chess game. If the electoral process goes well, Somaliland will come out more united and stronger. If, on the other hand, the registration fails, there will not be election. And if the registration is conducted properly but the election becomes controversial due to irregularity, given the deep divisions in the Somaliland society today, a significant part of the electorate may refuse to accept the result. If that happens Somaliland may experience unprecedented political crisis and head into an uncertain future.
Adan H Iman, Los Angeles
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