Friday May 26, 2023
FILE - U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (L) seated with Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni during a visit to the Puntland state capital, Garowe, on December 22, 2022. CREDIT: Puntland State House
Washington (HOL) - U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has commended Puntland for its groundbreaking local elections
, marking a significant move towards democracy despite significant challenges.
"I want to congratulate the people of Puntland and Somalia on their historic elections this week. When I was in Qardo at the end of last year, I was touched by people's hope for the future and commitment to democracy. I urge all involved to ensure a peaceful and fair election process.
Omar went on to praise the Puntland President for his role in pushing forward these elections, a significant step in Somalia's democratic evolution. "These elections will be the most significant step towards cultivating democracy in Somalia. And it's incredible to see Puntland lead the charge in this way," she added.
In late December 2022, the US congresswoman paid a personal visit to Puntland's regional capital, Garowe.
Puntland, a northeastern state in Somalia, is breaking new ground with these local elections, employing a one-person-one-vote system for the first time in over half a century. These elections starkly contrast to years of indirect elections, conflict, Islamist insurgency, and environmental disasters such as crippling droughts that have pushed the nation to the brink of famine.
However, security incidents have caused disruptions
, leading to the suspension of voting in certain districts
. Despite these issues, the global community, including various international partners and aid organizations, has lauded Puntland's district council elections as "historic," hoping that Puntland's experience can serve as a model for democratic expansion throughout Somalia.
The transition to democracy in Puntland, though, has been fraught with difficulties. The United Nation's humanitarian agency, OCHA, noted numerous obstacles and setbacks, highlighting the inherent challenges in transitioning from a semi-autonomous state to a democratic electoral system.
Critics have also voiced concerns about possible manipulation of the democratic process by Puntland's president, Said Abdullahi Deni. Some fear Deni might seek to alter Puntland's constitution to extend his term beyond its end in January. A Puntland opposition forum has publicly denounced any attempt to initiate a constitutional review process at this critical juncture.
Despite these hurdles, the public has shown high levels of political engagement, with over 387,000 registered voters choosing from 3,775 candidates, 28 percent of whom are women. This reflects a significant diversity among contenders and an optimistic outlook for the future of democracy in Puntland.