Hargeisa, Somaliland, Somalia –
The Somaliland Electoral Commission (SEC) has finally announced the election schedule, ending months of tension surrounding the postponement of the presidential vote. According to the SEC, the election period for political parties and associations will commence on December 28, 2023. The presidential election will follow almost a year later, on November 13, 2024.
These election dates come in the wake of a controversial decision by the legislative House of Elders to extend the term of current President Muse Bihi Abdi by two years, effectively extending his total tenure to 7 years. The decision arose from a dispute last year over the order in which the elections should be held. The move has drawn condemnation from opposition leaders, who accuse Mr Bihi of undermining the democratic process and refusing to adhere to the scheduled election timeline.
Indeed, with a 7-year term, the self-declared state finds itself aligned with other regimes known for their extended rule, such as Burundi or Equatorial Guinea, where constitutional reforms have been adopted to prolong the stay of their leaders.
It is worth noting that the Somaliland Electoral Commission comprises seven members. Three are nominated by the President of Somaliland, two by the House of Elders, and the remaining two by opposition parties. The distribution of nominations allows for a clear understanding of who has the most power in a body that is supposed to be fully independent.
Las Anod conflict
The election schedule announcement comes during the Las Anod crisis, which has already caused displacement of at least 200,000 people. The regime in Hargeisa has been waging war on the disputed city since February this year. Somaliland forces fight with local militias affiliated with the Dhulbahante clan. The clan, which resides in Sool, Sanaag and Buuhoodle, historically disputed between Somaliland and Puntland and did not want to contribute to dividing the Somali state. Somaliland, on the other hand, declared independence in 1991. Until now, it has lacked international recognition.