Officials in Somaliland counted votes from a presidential election Tuesday, with a social media blackout expected to last several days until results are announced. The northern territory, which declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, hopes its third presidential election will bolster its democratic credentials and strengthen the case for independence from its troubled neighbour.
The counting process “may take a couple of days before it finishes and the result is announced, it can be between 16th and 18th of this month,” said election commission chairman Abdikadir Iman Warsame.
No incidents of violence, unrest or disruption were reported during the day’s voting on Monday.
Three candidates are vying for the state’s top office: seasoned politicians Muse Bihi of the ruling Kulmiye party and opposition leaders Abdirahman Iro and Faysal Ali Warabe, who was defeated in a previous election in 2010.
Incumbent Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo is not seeking re-election.
Elections are meant to be held every five years, but the poll was delayed for two years due to drought and technical issues.
Somaliland’s history of peaceful, credible elections and democratic transition sets it apart from anarchic southern Somalia, and indeed much of east Africa.
Somalia’s election earlier this year saw a president chosen via a limited electoral process in which handpicked clan elders selected delegates who were allowed to vote.
However Somaliland drew criticism for imposing a blackout on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook after voting closed Monday, to prevent interference from outside the borders of the semi-autonomous state and speculation over the outcome.
Somaliland, a former British protectorate, won independence in 1960 but days later joined with Somalia.
In 1991, after years of bitter war with the government in Mogadishu, it declared independence from the rest of the country, and has long hoped for international recognition.
“If the result is announced and a president comes with the peaceful elections, I don’t think there is anything that will stop this tiny state from getting international recognition,” said resident Ali Madar.