Breakaway Somalia Region Somaliland Holds Peaceful Presidential Election
Bloomberg News
By William Davison

Somaliland, a breakaway region of northwestern Somalia, held a presidential election that was mostly peaceful today, with fighting limited to a disputed eastern region, international election observers said.

Most of the polling stations were orderly and organized, said Richard Williamson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and presidential envoy to Sudan, who along with International Republican Institute President Lorne Craner is leading the Washington-based group’s team of election observers. Military vehicles are patrolling the capital city of Hargeisa and all private vehicles and public transport have been ordered off the roads.

The election in one of the few peaceful and democratic territories in the Horn of Africa has been delayed for two years because of wrangling over voter registration. President Dahir Riyale Kahin of the United Peoples’ Democratic Party is facing challenges from Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo of the Kulmiye party and Faisal Ali Warabe from the Justice and Welfare Party. About 1 million people are registered to vote.

“It’s good for stability, their future and can do nothing but help them to get international recognition and investment,” Williamson said in an interview.

A female electoral commission officer was shot dead in fighting between Somaliland forces and rebel group Sool Sanaag Cayn in the troubled eastern region of Sool, according to an international election coordination mission led by London-based development charity Progessio. Voting hasn’t taken place in the area, said Michael Walls, joint coordinator of the mission.

Riyale became president of the former British colony in 1992 and won election to the post in 2003, after his party defeated the opposition Kulmiye party by 80 votes. Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 and largely escaped the violence in the remainder of Somalia. No country has recognized Somaliland as an independent state.

The polls closed at 6 p.m. local time.

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