Three political parties in Somalia’s breakaway republic of Somaliland have reached a consensus on the dates of local and presidential elections, potentially breaking weeks of political deadlock caused by President Dahir Riyale’s one-year term extension.
Representatives from the three political parties – the ruling UDUB party, and the opposition Kulmiye and UCID – held private discussions Tuesday mediated by a four-member committee from the Somaliland Election Commission.
The local council elections will be held on December 15, 2008, with Somaliland’s presidential elections scheduled for March 15, 2008, according to a high-ranking opposition official who participated in the talks.
Muse Bihi, deputy chairman of the Kulmiye party, told local media that the Election Commission and delegates from the three political parties had signed the preliminary accord.
But the opposition official indicated that several factors have to first be ironed out with Riyale’s government, including a guarantee that the elections be held on time as approved by the Election Commission.
The three parties and the Commission formally agreed to introduce a motion for debate in Somaliland’s two houses of parliament, requesting the removal of a key elections law clause demanding that the local council and presidential elections be held six months apart.
The opposition parties are still opposed to Mr. Riyale’s one-year term extension, which was approved in April by the House of Guurti, the upper house of parliament, Mr. Bihi said.
But he stated that it is “illogical” to have a “vacant seat” at the presidential seat of power in Hargeisa, the separatist region’s capital city.
Somaliland, in northwestern Somalia, has functioned as an independent government since the 1990s as the southern regions were devastated by conflict among armed clans and foreign military interventions.
The region has not been recognized internationally to date.