Democracy in Puntland: The People's Choice

Puntland state of Somalia was established in August 1998 as an autonomous regional government and part of the future federal state of Somalia. The consultative formation process was comprehensive with traditional elders and local leaders laying the foundation of the state. A clan based political structure emerged with the administrative body of the government consisting of the legislature, judiciary and executive arms. Since then, five Presidential Elections have been held . . However, these elections have been conducted through clan based system where traditional elders “Isimo” select sixty six (66) members of parliament who later elect the President, vice president and speaker of the parliament. The process of constitutionalizing democratic elections in Puntland began in 2008 under President Adde Muse's through a draft constitution which was later adopted following a constituent assembly vote during President Farole's administration.The government enacted the new electoral law that culminated in the establishment of a nine member Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission. The first democratic local council elections were then slated for July 2013 but just a day before the polls, there was violence in Qardho and Galkayo towns leaving at least three people dead and resulting in the indefinite postponement of the elections, which were to be the first democratic election in Puntland since 1969. Consequently, clan elders stepped in and resorted back to clan based system in selecting members of parliament who then elected the current President, Vice President and Speaker of the Parliament. It is against this backdrop that this paper seeks to explore the perception and expectations of the citizens in Puntland towards this democratization process. Further, it seeks to identify the fundamental issues that need to be addressed prior to the commencement of this process and to to provide a basis for public dialogue, which will ensure an evidence based policy making process.