Somaliland International Democratization Support Strategy - page 108

A little over ten years since Somaliland’s multiparty system was launched, political parties have
struggled to create distinct platforms, consolidate party structures, conduct outreach to and
represent constituents and resource these efforts. Further complicating their development is a
legal framework that guarantees no competition from new political organizations until their ten-
year term as national parties is complete, successive delays to parliamentary and presidential
elections for political and technical reasons and traditional political structures based on a
complex web of sub-clan systems.
Political parties have accomplished much in the ten years since their reintroduction into
Somaliland politics during the local council elections of 2002. The last time political parties
had competed was during the 1969 Somalia-wide (of which Somaliland was then part) national
assembly elections, in which 62 parties contested the vote. That experience soured public
attitude towards political parties, as elected representatives quickly switched parties to join the
governing party, leading to a one-party state, and the parliament came to be seen as a struggle
over parochial clan concerns.
As one author notes of the period, “The increasingly venal
struggle among the elite eventually led to the collapse of Somalia’s parliamentary
Today, Somaliland political parties see themselves as important contributors to Somaliland’s
national development by bridging the political transition from clans to a national democratic
process. This transition will be long-term; democratic transitions in other countries have shown
that reforming existing power structures is a complex process, susceptible to setbacks and
subject to the influence of larger political, economic and security matters.
In the strategy workshops and in-depth interviews that formed part of this assessment, political
party members and leadership enunciated an understanding of the many challenges they face
and put forth ideas to address and/or mitigate them. While political parties themselves must
take responsibility for their future development, there is significant opportunity for international
support to advance political parties as modern political organizations capable of representing
and advancing the needs of constituents. Moreover, political parties expressed as high priority
the need for access to international best practices from political parties that have succeeded in
similar circumstances elsewhere.
Given the formative stage of political party development in Somaliland, there is high value for
money in both quantitative and qualitative components; political parties are eager for assistance,
and there is a dearth of non-partisan international support providing it. As noted in the
international donor history and priorities section, IRI is one of the only organizations to work
with political parties in Somaliland on political party development, and has done so since 2002
with funding from USAID and NED. As one former IRI staff member noted:
Bradbury, Mark.
Becoming Somaliland
. Oxford: James Currey, 2008. Print, p. 35. 217.
Bradbury, Mark.
Becoming Somaliland
. Oxford: James Currey, 2008. Print, p. 35.
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