Somaliland International Democratization Support Strategy - page 62

Somaliland’s bicameral parliament was established in its first constitution, ratified in 2001.
The legislative powers of Somaliland are vested exclusively in two houses – the House of
Representatives and the House of the Elders. The House of Representatives is elected and is the
main legislative body of the republic. Members of the House of Elders (known as the
Somali) are currently appointed to represent the various communities and regions of the country
and perform the functions of a revising chamber for legislation (except for legislation relating to
financial matters).
Each chamber consists of 82 members. Members of the House of Representatives are directly
elected for five-year terms, while members of the 82-seat upper house (the
) are
nominated by their respective clans for six-year terms.
The House of Elders also includes
“honorary” members who are either former holders of the offices of president, vice-president or
speakers of either house and who serve for life; in addition to this, up to five persons chosen by
the president can enter either house on the basis of their “special significance to the nation” and
who serve for the term of the house to which they are appointed.
Legal Context and Background
Somaliland’s Parliament Pre-2001
During the May 1991 conference in which Somaliland re-asserted its independence, a
“presidential” system of government was adopted. This type of government was articulated in
Somaliland National Charter of 1993,
which confirmed an executive headed by a president
and a legislature of two houses, the House of Representatives and the
. Under Article 9
of the charter, members of the executive (ministers and deputy ministers) could not become
members of the legislature. The Borama conference was decisive in the sense that issues of
representation and power sharing were dealt with through the institutionalization of clans and
their leadership into the system of governance. The political system established in 1993 became
known as
, meaning “clan” or “community,” integrating indigenous forms of institutional
arrangements with modern institutions of government. The charter established a parliament
comprising an upper House of Elders, the
, and a lower House of Representatives.
system was intended to be in place for three years, but remained for a decade. The
formal ending of the civil war was signaled by a conference in Hargeisa, from October 1996 to
February 1997, which extended the administration’s tenure for a further four years, ratified an
interim constitution and increased the number of seats available to non-Isaaq clans. The current
Somaliland constitution was adopted by the two houses of parliament on April 30, 2000, and
endorsed through the national referendum on May 31, 2001.
Somalilanders voted overwhelmingly in favor of adopting the constitution, with almost 98 percent voting in
favor out of a turnout of over 90 percent.
As will be explained further on, in practice both chambers have extended their terms of office: the
year term was due to end in 2003 but has been extended on a number of occasions; the House of Representatives’
term was due to end in 2005 but was similarly extended due to fears over political instability.
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