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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Q&A: Somaliland votes
President Dahir Riyale Kahin
President Kahin hopes the election will lead to international recognition

The breakaway territory of Somaliland votes on Thursday for a new parliament. Somaliland leaders say the election completes a democratic process that has seen local and presidential polls. They hope it will be a step on the path to international recognition.

Q: Why is the vote being held now?

The original date of 29 March was postponed amid a row between parliament, which wanted a delay, and President Dahir Riyale Kahin.

The president accused legislators of seeking to extend their tenure indefinitely. The new date was set only after intervention by the country's constitutional court.

President Kahin says he hopes the poll will "compel the international community to accept our rights to join the world community".

Q: What sort of parliament is it?

Somaliland has had a parliament since it broke away from Somalia in 1991, but hitherto legislators have been chosen by clans through a process of consultation.

Under the constitution the lower House of Representatives has 82 members elected for five years.

The president heads the government and nominates the cabinet, which is approved by the legislature.

Q: What of the upper house?

The House of Elders also has 82 members, serving a six-year term in a mainly advisory role. It is not included in this election.

Elders review laws passed by the lower house before they go to the president. And they have special responsibility for passing laws on security, religion and culture.

Q: Who can stand?

A total of 246 candidates, including seven women, are contesting the 82 seats in the lower house.

Candidates must demonstrate adherence to Islam, be at least 35 years old and in good health. They must be high school graduates with no criminal record.

The voting age is 16. There will be 982 polling stations.

Q: What of parties?

The constitution limits the number of parties to three. It also forbids the creation of parties based on region or clan.

Each party must get at least 20% of the vote in each of the country's six regions to enter parliament.

The United People's Democratic Party (UDUB) is chaired by the president. Most ministers are UDUB members.

The UDUB says it stands for stability, sovereignty, unity and independence. It also backs women's rights.

The Kulmiye or Unity Party is the largest opposition party, founded by Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, a former planning minister.

It calls for good governance and an expansion of social services.

The Party for Justice and Democracy (UCID) advocates Western-style democracy. Its calls for a welfare system and pledges to fight corruption.

Q: What are the issues?

Most politicians project themselves as above the sectarian and clan divides that have plagued the rest of Somalia.

Thus all parties stress independence and sovereignty, and speak of creating a climate for democracy and economic prosperity.

Often using forceful and derogatory language, they insist they will not rejoin Somalia.

A border row with Puntland, an autonomous region of Somalia, remains a contentious issue.

While parliamentary candidates have not campaigned on terrorism, it is a favourite topic of the president.

The authorities recently arrested four militants, including an internationally known al-Qaeda member.

The arrests came weeks after the authorities put troops on high alert, citing "conspiracies bent on interrupting the polls".

Q: What of the campaign?

Posters bearing party programmes and candidates' slogans have been posted in the main towns.

Candidates have campaigned in vehicles mounted with loudspeakers.

Observers say media coverage has been extensive. TV chief Ali Fuad Jama has denied that the state media favour the president's UDUB, saying all three parties enjoyed free and equal air-time.

Q: Who is paying?

According to the country's electoral commission, the EU is funding 70% of the poll budget.

Q: Who oversees the vote?

There is a National Election Commission (NEC) made up of seven members: three selected by the government, two by the House of Elders and two by the opposition.

Media reports have said some 100 observers from the EU, South Africa and Egypt will monitor the poll.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

Regions and territories: Somaliland
15 Jul 05 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Somalia
15 Jul 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Somalia
15 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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