HARGEISA – Somaliland President Musa Bihi Abdi, accused the country’s main opposition party of plotting to sabotage the March 2019 parliamentary & local elections, in a press conference on Saturday (Oct 20).
Waddani, also known as Somaliland National Party, has repeatedly threatened to boycott the upcoming elections if President Bihi doesn’t dissolve the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
Waddani party chairman and 2017 presidential candidate, Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro, announced earlier this year that his party lost confidence in the NEC after the presidential election.
Irro and his party have repeatedly accused the NEC of ‘conducting a fraudulent presidential election’, despite never taking their claims to court. International observers from 60 countries said the 2017 presidential election was ‘largely peaceful’ and ‘well organized’, and have dismissed Waddani’s claims.
President Bihi’s press conference on Saturday addressed these claims and growing concerns from the general public, after Waddani pulled out of all-party talks on the upcoming elections last month.
“ The plan was to start preparations for the March 2019 elections ten months in advance. After concluding the presidential election, and the formation of the new government, the NEC met with the three political parties and presented their strategic plan to prepare for the elections. The NEC also raised three important parties with all parties. 1) Combining the parliamentary and municipal election laws, which were previously separate, 2) Organizing funds for the elections, 3) For all parties to provide the NEC with feedback and any criticism on the conduct of the 2017 presidential election.”
President Bihi went on to say that the NEC and Somaliland’s international partners were then tasked with preparing the funds for the election, after the meeting. According to President Bihi, Kulmiye and UCID both complied with the NEC’s request to provide written feedback/criticism on the 2017 election – while Waddani refused to take part in the process. Bihi says that’s when Waddani deliberately started to sabotage the process.
“The 2019 parliamentary & local elections will cost $16 million. The Government was required to pay $4 million of the total costs – $2 million at the start of preparations, and $2 million midway through the preparations. We have fulfilled both payments, the rest of the funds will be come from international donors” Bihi said.
“After our initial meeting, Waddani began demanding for the dissolution of the current NEC, because they were unhappy with the results of the 2017 presidential election. After Waddani began making such demands, I held five meetings with both Waddani and UCID, and we debated the legitimacy of Waddani’s arguments. Both UCID and Kulmiye have provided the NEC and parliament with feedback on the 2017 election – Waddani refused to take part in this activity.”
“The NEC is appointed for a fixed term. I cannot dissolve the NEC. Irro knows how the NEC can be dissolved – it’s a tough process. It’s more difficult than dissolving the parliament. It’s not possible to dissolve the NEC as a whole – commissioners can only be fired individually. If a commissioner is accused of a violation, an independent body will investigate the allegations. If the independent body finds a commissioner guilty of committing a violation, the President would still not be allowed to take action. The case would have to go before parliament, and a vote on the issue would have to be held. Even after a vote is held, another final review, that includes myself would also have to take place.” President Bihi said
“We are waiting for Waddani to reach a decision on this matter – until then all preparations for the election risk being sabotaged by Waddani,” President Bihi concluded.
It is not known whether the International Community has attempted to intervene in the dispute. The 60 member International Election Observer Mission (IEOM) that witnessed the 2017 presidential election, described the process as ‘largely peaceful’ and ‘well organized’ and have dismissed Waddani’s claims of voter fraud.
This is a developing story. Please check back at The National for more.