Monday, April 14, 2003

Peaceful voting underway in Somaliland's presidential poll
NAIROBI, 14 APRIL 2003 (IRIN) - Voters in the self-declared republic of Somaliland started casting their ballots in the breakaway region's first multi-party presidential elections on Monday.

The chairman of Somaliland's Electoral Commission Ahmed Haji Ali "Adami" told IRIN that voting was proceeding "very well" and there was a high turnout. Over a million Somalilanders are eligible to vote.

"Voting is very normal and very peaceful," he said.

He admitted however that there were problems in the disputed regions of Sool and Sanaag, where voting was proceeding normally in some districts, but in others "it is not going very well because of security reasons".

"There is no way that elections will take place in Sool and Sanaag," Isma'il Warsame, the chief of cabinet of Puntland's president, Col Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad, told IRIN last week. He said the people of the area did not want the elections, so "their wishes must be respected".

Somaliland's incumbent president, Dahir Riyale Kahin of the UDUB party, faces a strong challenge from Ahmed Muhammad "Silaanyo" of the Kulmiye party and Faisal Ali "Warabe" of the Justice and Welfare party (UCID). Both opposition contenders have expressed concern that the polls may not be free and fair.

Although Somaliland is still to receive international recognition, foreign observers from the UK, the US, South Africa, Ethiopia and the European Union are monitoring the election.

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