Somaliland Votes in Parliamentary Polls, Grabbing International Attention

MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – One million registered voters are casting their votes in parliamentary and municipal elections in the break-away Somalia region of Somaliland, highlighting progress as conflict plagues the rest of the country.

Dozens of international observers have arrived in the region this week, who are currently at polling stations across Somaliland.

The region’s leader Muse Bihi Abdi cast his vote at a polling station in the capital Hargeisa early on Monday morning and said it was a momentous feat for the region that voting had begun peacefully across the six regions of Somaliland.

On Sunday, authorities in the neighboring Puntland administration said they had seized ballot boxes destined for rural areas in a disputed land on the border between the two regions, though the government of Somaliland has not immediately commented on the assertion.

It is the first time the region has held parliamentary elections in more than a decade and municipal elections are four years late, but many in Somaliland have welcomed the election as a dramatic step taken to avert another decision by the long-serving members of the House of Representatives to extend their mandate again.

Some of the international observers, who spoke to media, described the region as a beacon of hope for the rest of Horn of Africa nations and sets an example to Somalia on free and fair elections.

Somaliland declared independence in 1991 after the collapse of the authoritarian regime of Siad Barre and no country has since recognized it, though it continues to function as an independent state with its own government, security forces and currency.

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