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Somaliland Electoral Laws

 Somaliland Electoral Laws & Codes

    NEW: February 2009:SomalilandElectoralLaws


    SOMALILAND ELECTORAL LAWSa handbook in English & Somali - by Ibrahim Hashi Jama, editor,


       Download FREE HERE. (large pdf file)



    The main Somaliland electoral laws are:

  1. The Presidential & Local Elections Law (Law No: 20/2001) which deals with the direct elections of the President and the Vice –President of the Republic every five years, as well as the election every five years of all the local district councils. The last presidential election was held in 2003 and the last local council elections in 2002. (See also the 2007 Amendment Bill, which has since been rejected by the House of Elders )
  2. The House of Representatives Election Law (Law No: 20-2/2005) which deals with the direct election of 82 members of the House of Representatives.  The last election was held in September 2005.
  3. Various versions of Bills relating to the indirect or direct elections of the members of the House of Elders  Bill were considered by the parliament. The current members of the House were elected indirectly for a six year term at the Grand Conference of the Somaliland communities in 1997 and have had their term extended three times. The last House of Elders Election Bill was passed by the House of Representatives in on 16 September 2006 (on a vote of 34 for and 30 against) and  proposed, for the first time,  direct elections of the Elders. The two opposition parties supported such direct elections, but many civil groups preferred to keep the traditional element in the House and supported indirect elections. The Elders considered the  Bill on 23 September 2006 and rejected it on a vote of  68 votes against (i.e over two thirds of the members) and also on a “point of principle”.  This meant that under Article Article 78(5) of the Constitution, the Representatives could return the bill to the Elders ONLY if they could pass it again, this time,  by two third’s of their total membership. The opposition parties could not muster such majority and so the bill lapsed. On the the President’s proposal, the Elders  then extended their term (without the involvement of the the House) by another 4 years. Their previous two extensions of the Elders’ term was based on by a Resolution of the House of Representatives.
  4. For the various versions of the House of Elders Election Bills, follow this link (If this link is broken, please go to the centre of the HOME page - see left above for the Home link- )

  5. Electoral Codes of Conduct were drawn up and in discussions and agreements with the Somaliland Electoral Commission and the Academy for Peace and Development,  the Somaliland political parties committed themselves to the observance of the Codes. The Codes  have assisted in filling in the gaps in the electoral laws and have acted as non-statutory rules of conduct for the political parties during the elections: 
  6. 2002 Code of Conduct for Political Organisations
  7. 2002 Code of Conduct for political organisations and the Electoral Commission
  8. 2003 Presidential Election Code of Conduct
  9. 2005 House of Representatives Code of Conduct for Political Parties
  10. 2005 Press Code of Conduct During Elections.
  11. Monitoring Committees: In line with Somalilanders reliance on traditional (alternative) dispute resolution procedures Committees of prominent Somalilanders were also set up, sometimes informally, to act as watchdogs.  See the following documents relating to the various elections:

RECENT CHANGES (since 2007):

1.  VOTER REGISTRATION:   Updated ...

The  Somaliland Voter Registration Law 2007 ( Law No:37/2007)  and its 2008 amendments - in Somali and an English language translation. 

    (For the earlier text of the bill see: The Somaliland Voter Registration Bill 2007 (as previously passed by the House of Representatives on 11 March 2007 and the House of Elders on 14 May 2007)  This is now Law (July 2007)

2. The New Electoral Commission finally sworn into office on 9 September 2007 - nearly 8 months since the expiry of the term of office of the outgoing Commission on 20 January 2007. See the Electoral Commission page for more details.

3. Somaliland Presidential & Local Councils Elections (Amendment) Bill 2007 Text in Somali. ( comments on the Bill ). On 2 December 2007, the House of Elders rejected the whole Bill, on a vote of 62 for the rejection, none against and 3 abstentions.  The House of Representatives will be considering the Bill again in their next session which starts in early February 2008. The Bill has now lapsed as the House of Representatives could not muster the two thirds majority required to force the bill through. In mid April 2008, the House passed a very short and different amendment Bill (details to follow).


4. Postponement of the elections: The Somaliland National Electoral Commission announced on 11 October 2007 an accord agreed upon by all the three parties on 7 October 2007, which stated the following:

    1. All voter registration should be completed by 10 June 2008.

    2.  Elections for local district council which should have taken place in December 2007 shall now be conducted on 1 July 2008.

    3.  The Elections for the President of Somaliland to be held in April 2008 will be postponed to 31 August 2008.

    4.  Any issues relating to the above, which arise in the future, shall be resolved through dialogue and consensus.


5. Extension of the term of office of the District Councils: There are no constitutional or legal provisions which give the House of Elders power to extend the term of office of local councils (or for that matter their own term of office), but the House assumed such a power, at the request of the President, and on 12 December 2007 passed a motion (on a vote of 47 for, 1 against and 2 abstaining) to extend the term of office of the District authorities which was due to expire in December 2007 to 1 July 2008, so as to bring it in line with the terms of the SNEC/political parties accord.  No similar proposal was put to the House in connection with the delayed presidential election - the House has the power under Article 83(5) of  the Constitution to extend the term of office of the President & Vice President but only in exceptional circumstances where the election cannot be “because of security considerations”. This has raised  concerns that a longer extension of the presidential term of office may be in the offing!

It has been my consistent view that all these (and the past) extensions of the terms of office necessitated by failures to arrange the elections on time should be dealt with by either constitutional amendments or, where appropriate, as in local councils, by amendments to the relevant laws. Both of these options involve decision making on the part of the President and BOTH Houses and not just the President and the House of Elders only (Editor)


6. Second Postponement of the Elections: The Somaliland National Electoral Commission announced on 9 April 2008 another accord agreed upon by all the three parties and the SNEC to the effect that in the light of the delay in the voter registration, the:

  1. The voter registration  will be completed by 5th October 2008
  2. The Local Councils elections will be held on 6th October 2008.
  3. The Presidential election shall be held on 31 December 2008.


7. House of Elders’ Controversial  Extension of Presidential Term of Office: On 10 April 2008, the House considered   proposals submitted to them by the President and decided (on a vote of 63 for, 1 against and 3 abstaining) to extend the term of office of the President, which is due to expire on 15 May 2008, by one year to 6 May 2009.  The House relied on Article 83(5) of the Constitution which  allows a term extension ONLY  if the election cannot be held because of security considerations. Here is a copy of the House resolution.


8. On 20 June 2008 the three parties and the NEC reached an agreement postponing the elections to 2009. A copy the agreement in Somali is available here. For an English translation of the Agreement see the Somaliland Academy for Peace website.  The presidential elections will now be held, before the local government elections, in March 2009.


There is no general law governing the holding of referendums, but the special referendum on the Constitution was conducted under the Law on the Referendum of the Constitution. 

The Somaliland Electoral Commission


The Somaliland elections are overseen by the Somaliland National Electoral Commission whose composition powers and duties are set out in Articles 10 t0 21 of the 2001 Election Law and Articles 63 and 64 of the 2005 Election Law. 

Reports of Independent Observers of Somaliland Elections (2002 – 2006):

(Note the reports also contain the election results)


A: 2001 Referendum on the Somaliland Constitution -


Report of the Initiatives & Referundums Institute 2001 (pdf)


B: 2002 Local Elections –


1.  EU Delegation Final Report on the Somaliland Local Elections (pdf)

2. Final Report on the Somaliland Local Elections : EU/GTZ Technical Team (pdf)

2.  Very Much a Somaliland Run Election” - CIIR (pdf)

 3.   Report of the Domestic Observers - COSONGO (Word file)


C: 2003 Presidential Election –


1.  Report of the South African Mission on the Somaliland Presidential Election

2. Somaliland: Presidential Election 2003 – NORDEM Report 08/2003

3. Somaliland Presidential Election Observation Report – NAGAAD & COSONGO


D: 2005 Parliamentary (House of Representatives) Election -


1. Further Steps to Democarcy - Progressio

2. International Election Observers Final Interim Report (Word)

3. Somaliland Elections to the Lower House, NORDEM REPORT 03/2006 (pdf)

4. International Republican Institute Somaliland Parliamentary Election Assessment Report (pdf)

5. PLACES THAT DO NOT EXIST: Experiences from the parliamentary elections in Somaliland

6. Media & press statements of the South African Observer Mission to Somaliland Parliamentary elections - 25/09/2006 & 30/09/2006



'A Vote for Peace' - How Somaliland successfully hosted its first Parliamentary Elections in 35 years: A report by the Somaliland Academy for Peace & Development

Executive Summary                     Full Report (pdf)


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