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Skip Navigation LinksPOGAR > Countries > Country Theme: Elections: Somalia
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Overview

The Somali parliament had approved on 26 January 2009 in Djibouti to increase its members to 550 in order to allow the accession of 275 members from the opposition, according to the Djibouti Agreement singed between the transitional government and the Djibouti Liberation Alliance. A series of talks held in Nairobi, Kenya brought together the major faction leaders and government officials throughout 2003 and resulted in the signing of a transitional federal charter on September 15, 2003. The charter specified the creation of a transitional federal parliament, whose 275 members were to be chosen by clan leaders throughout Somalia. The Somali parliament met in Nairobi, Kenya on October 10, 2004 and elected Abdallah Youssef Ahmad as the new president of Somalia. The elections took place over two rounds. During the first round 28 candidates competed, however 21 candidates failed in obtaining the two thirds required majority. Only 6 candidates ran in the second round after the previous president withdrew from the elections. Somalia had no effective central government since 1991. The presidential elections came after two years of hard and exhausting negotiations. Moreover, the president of Punt Land republic rejected President Ahmad's call for unifying the two republics. He called on President Ahmad to exchange formal recognition between the two Somali republics.

Northern Somalia, a former British protectorate, and southern Somalia, governed by the Italians, gained independence and were united in one country in 1960. In 1969, President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was assassinated and military leaders assumed control of the country, renamed the Somali Democratic Republic. Mohammed Siad Barre became the new president. At this time, the legislative body, the National Assembly, was dissolved and political parties were made illegal. For the next several decades, rival political groups, many formed around pre-existing clan identities and relationships, contested for power at the center. Some of these groups, like the Somali National Movement (SNM) in the northern region, were territorially based. In 1989, in a response to escalating violence, President Barre promised to hold elections for the legislative body. The 1990s saw an even further increase of inter-clan rivalry and violence. In 1991 President Barre left the country, and three opposition groups came together to forge a coalition headed by Ali Mahdi Mohammed. This coalition collapsed later in the same year.

News and academic sources, like the Middle East Review, note that current information and data concerning Somalia is unreliable given the state of civil war in the country.

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Election Laws, Systems and Processes

The amended 1979 constitution of Somalia provided for elections to be held for the presidency and the legislature. Suffrage was granted to all male citizens of Somalia over the age of 18. The president was elected by popular vote for a seven-year term. At the time that the Constitution was written, there was one legal political party, the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party (SRSP). The 1979 Constitution also stipulated that legislative power was to be held by the 177-member People’s Assembly. One hundred and seventy-one members of the unicameral legislature were to be elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms, while the president appointed the remaining six members.

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Presidential Elections

The Somali Transitional parliament met in Djibouti on 31 January 2009 and elected Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmad to the position of Somalia’s president. There were 14 presidential candidates, most prominent of whom were Musleh Mohamad Siyad Berri – son of late Somali President Mohammad Siyad Berri; and Nour Hassan Hussain, Known as Nour Oday. The elections were conducted in two rounds. In the first round Sheikh Sherif won 219 out of 430 votes. In the second round he won a majority of votes against his competitor Musleh Siyad Berri.

In general, the candidates programs focused on the following issues: supporting and advancing reconciliation efforts; improving social services; bringing back refugees and displaced persons; reviving the economy; fair distribution of national wealth; adopting a federal system; preparing for a pluralist, fair and transparent elections; cooperating with other countries in the region and the international community; and commitment to international treaties and conventions.

In May 1991, the northern regions broke away from Somalia to claim a separate political identity. The new entity, which was named the Somaliland Republic, has not been recognized internationally. On May 31, 2001, a referendum approved Somaliland’s first written constitution by 97 percent. The president and vice-president are jointly elected in general elections following the electoral rules of the party list system. In 1997, Mohammed Ibrahim Egal was elected as the Somaliland president for a five-year term. Following his death, Dahir Riyale Kahin became president. The results of hotly contested presidential elections on April 15, 2003 were a statistical tie between Kahin and his competitor from the Kulmiye (Solidarity) Party, Mujahid Silanyo. The National Election Committee declared Kahin the winner by 80 votes, though the figures released evidently contained significant miscalculations on both sides. The Supreme Court of Somaliland later ruled that Kahin won by 217 votes.

Another region in the northeast of Somalia declared itself an autonomous region within Somalia in 1998, naming itself Puntland. Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was appointed president by clan chiefs for a three year period. Puntland also has a 66-member House of Representatives that serves a six-year term; some of its members have called for elections in April 2004, while others have sought a two year extension on the term. In July 2001, the traditional elders tried to replace Yusuf, and Jama Ali Jama was appointed president late that year. In 2001, however, Abdullahi Yusuf drove Jama Ali Jama out of the capital and then the control, reclaiming his role as president. Though the dispute continues, Abdullahi Yusuf is in full control of Puntland. He has signed Somalia’s transitional federal charter.

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Legislative Elections

The legislative branch of Somaliland is composed of two legislative chambers, the House of Representatives and the House of Elders. The Constitution stipulates that the 82 members of the House of Representatives are to be elected for five-year terms in a free general election. The manner of election for the 82 members of the House of Elders is not specified in the Constitution. The Elders hold six-year terms. According to the Somaliland Constitution, no more than three political parties can exist simultaneously.

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Local Elections

The top three parties in the municipal elections of 2002 won this right; they were Egal’s United People’s Democratic Party (UDUB), Kulmiye (Solidarity) and the Justice and Welfare Party (UCID). Three other parties also contested the 2002 municipal elections, held on December 22, 2002. UDUB won 41 percent of the vote; Kulmiye and UCID won 19 and 11 percent respectively. Somaliland has declined to participate in international conferences about Somalia and has signified its intent to ignore any attempts at unification with other parts of Somalia.

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