Somaliland’s fledgling democracy has met many serious obstacles since the very first municipal elections that were held in December 2002. The peak of these obstacles was the deep political crisis that resulted as a delay of the presidential elections. This dispute was so deep rooted that for the first time in Somaliland’s history a solution came only after international mediation arrived at the 11th hour from both the Ethiopian and British foreign ministries. As a result, Somaliland’s tradition of solving their own problems and putting their own house through traditional elders and mediation suffered a blow for the first time.

The political impasse seems to have settled down for the time being but it can flare up at any moment because up to now no date has been set for the elections and even worse the irregularities of the voter registration system have not yet been corrected. This brings us to the question of how we can avoid political instability in the future and whether the current constitutional law allowing the winning party of a presidential election to hold power for a five year term is viable.

This five year term policy has only contributed to Somaliland’s problems because the ruling political party has had five years to consolidate power. We have seen with the incumbent Udub’s seven years in office how one political party will perpetually hold on to political power well past their 5 year term. But Udub alone is not to blame and it is a fact that the two opposition parties Kulmiye and Ucid never gave the government a chance to work and started their policy of destructive criticism immediately after the Udub party won the elections in 2003 and even tried to mobilize a hasty impeachment act against the president after he had served only 2 years as president.
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I strongly believe that a system of rotational presidency with each party holding office for a period of two or at the most three years is the only viable solution that can steer Somaliland out of the risks of a conflict that may arise as a result of presidential elections. A system of rotational presidency would make all political parties content, make them all feel included and at the same time contribute to an indivisible Somaliland.

I am in no way suggesting that Somalilanders are not sophisticated enough to practice democracy with a one man one vote system. Parliamentary elections and municipal elections should be held just as they have been for the past and the political parties would have the chance to display their support among the masses during such elections despite a system of rotational presidency. At the same time the Guurti or house of elders would still exist as the second chamber of parliament.

Some critics would suggest that such a system of rotational presidency alongside parliamentary and municipal elections is not the ”truest form of democracy.” But, rotational presidency is not undemocratic it is rather an all accommodating democracy. A nation is qualified to be called a democracy if it respects agreed rules and procedures. Switzerland provides a good reference point for analysis on the subject of rotational presidency. Switzerland, a small nation though it operates a system of “collective presidency” in which leadership is rotated annually. Yet Switzerland is one of the world’s most democratic and stable nations. The only difference is that Switzerland’s rotational presidency is based on rotation between the 6 cantoons (provinces) that make up the country, some of which speak different languages: French, German and Italian. However, in Somaliland it would be more ideal to base it on political parties rather than regions in order to counter the tribal/clan factor since every region is inhabited by certain clans.

Rotational presidency would regulate a system whereby all political parties would feel inclusive with each party knowing that they have at the most 6 years until they too are in office. As a result, both the party in office and the others not in office at the time would be obliged to work together closely. It would redesign the political equation of the country so that no party would be left out in the wilderness and eliminate the risk of one political party having the chance to monopolize the leadership of Somaliland and especially the presidency. At the same time we would no longer have the current unethical politics of “ku jiq sii” which is nothing but political sabotage by all the three parties.

The current system of presidential elections of every five years has only divided the country deeply along party lines and endangered the country’s stability on two occasions: first during the disputed presidential elections of 2003 and later in the aftermath of the delayed elections that were scheduled to be held in 2009. The harsh truth we have to accept and bear in mind is that presidential elections just has not worked well for Somaliland. With the current system and status quo we will always have the curse of an incumbent government trying to cling on to power by hook or crook even well past their five year mandate and on the other side opposition parties that feel alienated and frustrated.

In contrast to this, the political vision of rotational presidency in general emphasizes more of a politics of representation. In this case, the focus is to ensure that the different political parties in the country all have an equal chance to occupy the executive branch of government. It is believed that representation touches a sensitive aspect of human life, which relates to some basic human pride, guaranteeing a sense of belonging. In Somaliland’s case rotational presidency would bring the political parties more together in the spirit of team work and cooperation and thus lead to a solid unity within the country. Moreover such a system would ensure that the party which is the underdog in parliament would have the chance to demonstrate good governance during their two year term and this could give them a chance to increase their parliamentary seats during parliamentary elections.

I am sure that critics would say that our constitution does not stipulate a system of rotational presidency but politics is about pragmatism and such a change in the constitution would be held as a referendum and set before the people to give their verdict. I am also aware that some would argue that a system of rotational presidency amongst the political parties alongside an elected parliament and house of elders has never existed before. To them I would say that even the greatest democracies in the world today for example the U.S.A. evolved and enhanced their democracies by putting it to the test and went through many changes in order to suit the needs and structures of their own societies.

The system that I advocate for would be a unique home grown solution to our dilemma of presidential elections that have paralyzed Somaliland on many occasions and are a potential source of future conflict. It would be our remedy to avoid presidential elections that have been so synonymous with nothing but a nation sitting on a powder-keg just waiting to explode at any moment. I strongly believe that rotational presidency among political parties offers the only solution for peaceful existence in Somaliland’s case and a way to steer clear of future conflicts. that may arise as a result of presidential elections.

By Ahmed Hussein Kahin


  1. Interesting article Ahmed, but you made the point yourself by stating "Some critics would suggest that such a system of rotational presidency alongside parliamentary and municipal elections is not the ”truest form of democracy.” Therefore, do you suggest that the office of President becomes a ceremonial role? and real power into the hands of a prime minister from the parliament and the party with the majority in parliament?
    Somaliland's constitution calls for an Executive Presidency. Would this not mean change the constitution? How would you about dividing power between the Executive and the legislative bodies in Somaliland?

    • Hi Kariye, I am in no way suggesting that the office of President becomes a ceromonial role. It would still have all the powers of the executive branch of government. The parliament would keep its powers of being the judicial branch of government. Regarding the constitution, I have mentioned in my article that such a change can be made by holding a nation wide referendum.

      • Ahmed, a rotational presidency with full executive powers will not work. That is why we have term limits. Besides, each rotational president will have his own agenda, and would more than likely spend most of his time making changes to his/her predecessors laws, instead of going forward.

        The only way that a rotational presidency will work is if its a ceremonial role, much like Italy, the Governor-General in Canada, Ethiopia, and so on. You can either have an executive presidency or a legislative prime minister, case in point the situations in Kenya and Zimbabwe are slowly becoming untenable, and we don't want that

  2. Your "solution" is based on the assumption that Somaliland cannot and will not get pass the recent problem of the elections being post-poned. Because if Somaliland holds the upcoming elections on time and continues to strengthen its democratic model, then we'll have a democracy where the party who represents the majority of people governing the state. The second problem with your solution is that if it were to be adopted it would represent greater problems than those its suppose to solve. For example a rotation system is less likely to be democratic, because it automatically allows for each party to hold office on a rotational basis. There is a wide variety of problems with this idea, first of all its not democratic, because the party with the majority of votes would not govern if it wasn't there period to hold office. This is made even more problematic as a it would decrease the incentive for each party to respond to and propose solutions in their attempts to win over the voters. Also, there are so many other assumptions in your article, another one of which is that every party has the same ideas, therefore giving every party an equal turn to govern, the obvious critique to this is that not every party or president will have the same ideas and so some are better than others which should be rewarded by being reelected to office.

    Those are just some of the problems of a rotational presidency.


  3. I suggest we hold on to the current system, but transparency is needed to go forward. The majority holding party has to govern and improve the lives of the people where possible. Rotational Presidency will not work with the 3 parties that we have. Whoever comes first will know that he has to vacate the seat and will not do anything during his term, but if we continue this path that we are now, each party will have the ego of ruling again, and that will be good for the country. They will try their best to improve to hold on to the power, until people decide otherwise. The scheduled election has to take place and the current government has to make things easy for the sack of the people. There should be "Kushubasho" business, because it will backfire.

  4. This is the silliest idea i've seen since long time. Don't mind me but it seems the writer is a desperate Kulmiye supporter who wants to put his feet into the system by any means.

    We will have elections soon and someone will win in the presidency. Rotation is not gonna work and it is not a solution but a problem.

    • O.G. u have fallen for this writers tricks. This guy has a hidden agenda that is being driven by Udub. Udub now realizes that it will lose the elections, and they know that they can not survive 5 years as an opposition party and it would be the end of Udub. Therefore they want another way or means to come back to office through such schemes as rotational presidency.

      • You have it all wrong about this idea being UDUB party idea. I think that Ucid is the party that would benefit from such a system. They are the smallest party and know that they never have the chance of winning a presidential election.

  5. It looks your name stands "Over Grazed"

    Kulmiye is one of our Political Parties and has the right to govern if the people of Somaliland choose it. What is the problem you have with Kulmiye? Are you one of those sick people who kept saying silly things like this party belongs to a certain tribe? or Kulmiye is for Somaliweyn? Well that is not true and you will see tomorrow.

  6. From a rational argument to a partisan political debate. Irrespective of whichever Somaliland political party one supports, surely, the state is paramount. After all, the reason we are working hard to install full democracy in our country is that so don't have another dictator clinging on to power for over 30 years.

    Remember President's come and go, but the nation carries on. For eight years some people in the USA were counting the days till George W. Bush left the White House, and now they have a new President in Barack Obama to take blame for everything, that is the beauty of a democracy.

    Whomever wins the next Presidential election, campaigning is easier than governing.