After several months of careful preparations, Somaliland marked an important step forward in the democratization process with the launch of a biometric voter registration process on 16 January 2016. The Somaliland National Electoral Commission (NEC) launched the operation in Togdheer region, following which voters will be registered over the next months throughout all the six regions of Somaliland.
Somaliland has held five successful elections since 2002 as part of its democratization process. While national and international observers have generally deemed these elections peaceful and credible, all but one have been held without a voter register, leaving the process susceptible to problems such as multiple voting.
As the Academy for Peace and Development (APD) notes in its report on Confronting the Future of Somaliland’s Democracy, the experiences of the 2012 local council elections particularly convinced political actors that developing a voter register was essential for the credibility and integrity of future elections in Somaliland. APD is Interpeace’s long-standing partner organization in Somaliland and the two organizations have worked closely on democratisation in Somaliland together. Interpeace has been NEC’s international partner since 2004, facilitating technical support and providing a peacebuilding lens to the democratization process in collaboration with APD.
NEC is using an iris-capture biometric voter registration system – the first of its kind to be used in Africa to register voters across Somaliland. This is an important step forward in the democratization process for Somaliland as well as a milestone for the region.