Monday, March 24, 2003

Continuity or change in Somaliland?
HARGEYSA, 24 MARCH 2003 (IRIN) - Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin faces a strong opposition challenge in the self-declared republic's first multiparty presidential elections on 14 April. His challengers are Ahmed Muhammad "Silaanyo" of the Kulmiye party and Faisal Ali "Warabe" of the Justice and Welfare party (UCID).

The government believes Kahin will win on merit. But the opposition fears the poll may not be fair, and there is some concern that logistics may not be ready in time for polling.

Information Minister Abdillahi Duale stressed that local elections in December had gone smoothly. "Now that we are going ahead with the presidential elections, everything is in place," he told IRIN. "The electoral process has been tested. The government has already passed the budget for the Electoral Commission."

The Electoral Commission was set up in December 2001, before the local elections. It has seven members, of whom three are selected by the government, two by the House of Elders and two by opposition parties.

Duale also invited the international community to send observers.

"Our main objective today is to make sure that the democratisation process is in place, that elections are held in a fair manner," he said. "And I would like on behalf of the government and on behalf of the nation to invite international observers to come, as they did for the local government elections and the constitutional referendum."

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