By Ahmed Kheyre

The Somaliland National Elections Commission (NEC) had declared its intention to begin the voter registration for the 2017 Presidential and parliamentary elections in Togdher on January 16th.

The voter registration drive which still has some issues to deal with such as the proposal by the administration of President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamud “Silanyo”, to include Buhodle region registrations with Sool instead of Togdher, the delay in the parliamentary elections bill and other minor issues pertaining to the eastern fringes of the country; appears to be finally on the go.

Recently, the Commission signed the Electoral Code of Conduct with the three parties, Kulmiye, Waddani and UCID, regarding the ballots, monitors, individual party campaign dates and other issues related to the elections.

However, there have recently been a spate of allegations against the NEC pertaining to malfeasances and corruption. So much so, that the stalwart Somali cartoonists Amin Amir was compelled to feature the Commission in one of his inestimable cartoons.

It is right and proper that the Commission be held accountable. The mandate of the Commission is to hold free, fair and transparent elections in Somaliland, in a free, fair, transparent and dignified manner.

In a democratic society, everyone has the right to free speech and it is incumbent on the Commission to defend itself from such allegations.

The Somaliland National Elections Commission (NEC) is a charter organization mandated by the constitution and appropriated by the parliament. The commission receives funds from Somaliland’s international supporters, such as the European Union, and non-governmental organizations in the United States of America and other interested parties. It is accountable to the Somaliland parliament, the National Audit Office and several other governmental agencies.

The current Commission which includes members of both gender, is made up of party representatives and independent members. The Commission holds its own internal elections to choose a chair, a deputy-chair and a spokes-person. The current board has some very talented Somalilanders who have taken up the challenge of conducting a free and fair elections in the country.

It goes without saying that all Somalilanders have an interest in the Commission’s ability to fulfil their duty. They also hope that the Commission will maintain its dignity and decorum in the face of constant allegations and accusations designed to thwart and imperil Somaliland’s democratic path.

With regard to the allegations of malfeasance and corruption. Like any organization charged with such an onerous task in a large country with its population scattered across the land , from urban centres to the rural villages, it needs tools to conduct the voter registrations.

These tools include transport, which must be reliable and efficient. The Commission needs staff to work in voter registration centres and information offices. The Commission also needs equipment and all the sundry necessities to undertake such a mammoth task, which begins on the 16th January, 2016, and Insha’Allah, concludes in April 2017, with the results of the elections.

When you consider this herculean assignment, will there be a few hiccups and hurdles? Definitely. Will the Commission, the political parties, the international supporters and above all the people of Somaliland make the assignment work? Without a shadow of a doubt.

So, I have a few words of advice for the nay-sayers, the opportunists and obstructionist. Bidmillahi Kariim, Somaliland will hold its elections, the victors shall be humble and the defeated gracious. The nation will carry on.

And finally, to the certain Professor and his like who talk about blocking registration in certain parts of Somaliland? What are you afraid of? Let the people register, let them vote, let them spoil their ballot or even better, vote none of the above. If you had such a compelling argument, Professor, why are you afraid to put it to a vote? After all, these Somalilanders are being given the opportunity to exercise their rights and freedom to choose their destiny.

The people of Somaliland are past the days of threats and intimidation. It is and will always be one person, one vote. Welcome to the 21st century.

Allaa Mahad Leh