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Opening the Political Space: A Landmark Decision by the President and a Boost for Somaliland Democratic Process

One cannot emphasize more, how challenging it is to start a state and its governance institutions anew from the legacy of a state which was based on totalitarian principles and practices and to build a democratic system out of its rubble. Somaliland inherited, from the defunct system, a legacy of dictatorial mindset in all aspects of state behavior; it was after all the only state that had the profoundest imprint on the lives of the Somaliland people and their relationship with the state. So, in building this new state, the question of how much democracy is healthy enough for the people in the prevailing situation often lingered in the minds of those involved in the early process of crafting the new state institutions and laws. Article 9 of Somaliland’s new Constitution attests to the conflict in the minds of the early leaders. While in 9(1) the Constitution adopts the multi-party political system, in the next section 9(2), it limits the number of political parties to not be more than three at any time. Therefore, to satisfy that limitation, which itself is a Constitutional contradiction in regards to other provisions guaranteeing fundamental rights of citizens, the country has to undergo, what under normal circumstances should be considered an unnecessary exercise of a two- stage process for citizens to form political parties: a) to register political associations, which will compete in the local elections. B) The top three winning associations will qualify for national political party status. These three political parties can field candidates for the two houses of parliament and presidential elections. Somaliland copied this system from Nigeria, which was also at that time moving from dictatorship to democracy, but for Nigeria it was one time process, whereas Somaliland is still shackled to the system, because of the Constitutional limitations on the multi-party system.

Dr. Mohamed Fadal

SORADI

Dr. Mohamed Osman Fadal is the Board Chair of Social Research and Development Institute (SORA DI) and the coordinator of the Independent Scholars Group in Somaliland.. He holds a PhD in Political Economy. He is a specialist in participatory research and post-confl ict recovery programming, public policy and institutional development, especially in the contexts of Somaliland and Sudan.