Puntland Election: What we know so far
GAROWE - Somalia's oldest Federal-state Puntland is holding a universal suffrage election starting today [Thursday], with the poll coming nearly two years after initial piloting in three District Councils but whose results were widely marred by corruption and voter fraud, according to the opposition parties.
In October 2021, Puntland held elections in Ufyen, Qardho, and Eyl which the ruling party KAAH, claimed victory in the majority of councils. The exercise set the pace for the implementation of similar elections in the remaining districts across the northeastern state of Somalia.
Nearly 320,000 people are expected to pick their local leaders in slightly over 30 districts but there is growing uncertainty and lack of inclusiveness. Already, the opposition has bolted out of the exercise, accusing the outgoing government of Said Abdullahi Deni of mutilating democratic processes.
Voter registration, they argue, was "personalized" by the ruling party with preliminary evidence showing that even minors were registered "with impunity and against the law". Contrary to other democratic polls, only the ruling party has been campaigning across Puntland, consequently, making it "a one-man show".
Within the last two weeks, violence has marred the exercise in most parts of Puntland, with Garowe, the capital, being the most affected. Soldiers opposed to the "discrimination" of authorities conducting the exercise have staged a mutiny, some calling for "immediate cancellation" pending "consultations".
The violence attracted the attention of the international partners and the federal leadership, with both sides insisting on "consensus and dialogue". President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud downplayed the conflict while directing local leadership to embrace "magnanimity and consultation" for the sake of peace and prosperity.
On his part, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre insisted that the exercise, should it go on, will be "detrimental to state building" in Somalia. But the regional authorities would hear none of the suggestions, with Deni carrying on with campaigns, ignoring calls from stakeholders to postpone the polls.
But on Wednesday, the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission [TPEC] canceled elections in three districts due to unending violence which threatens regional stability. This means elections will not take place in Garowe, the regional administrative capital of Puntland, Dangarayo, and Godob-Jiraan which falls within the jurisdiction of the Nugaal region.
Elders in Nugaal called for dialogue earlier this week with locals blocking the delivery of electoral materials due to political differences which have remained unsolved. Elections will be held in the affected districts at a later date, the commission announced without "approval" from the opposition.
The opposition accuses Deni of secretly plotting to ‘extend’ his five-year term which ends in January next year. There are reports armed men seized some ballot boxes and burned them down, some calling for the regional leader to "take responsibility" for failing to appreciate "regional cohesiveness".
Deni is believed to be crafting a term extension against the tenets of the provisional constitution, which gives him only five years at the helm. The regional leader, the opposition adds, is hell-bent on also running in upcoming polls against the spirit of federalism and constitutionalism in Somalia.
Nationally, Deni is also accused of "fighting federalism" having announced that Puntland will run as an independent state until a new constitution is drafted. On Wednesday, he boycotted the all-important National Consultative Council [NCC] which brings together the federal and state leadership on the planning of the development of the country.