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Publication Detail
Somalia: Puntland’s Punted Polls
Puntland is the first of Somalia’s federal units to attempt transition from clan-based representation to directly-elected government, but poor preparations and last-minute cancellation of local elections in July underline the challenges of reconciling competing clan interests with a democratic constitution. Cancellation pragmatically averted violence, but societal tensions remain unaddressed. The presidential vote by a clan-selected parliament in January 2014 will thus be fraught. Weak political and judicial institutions will struggle to mediate, risking involvement by partisan arms of the state. Direct elections are no panacea for reducing the conflict risks, but hard-won incremental progress on the constitution and local democratisation must not be abandoned. The cancelled ballot’s lessons should be instructive for promised elections in the rest of Somalia. Better technical preparations matter, but Puntland’s experience shows that donors and other international actors also need to be heedful of local political realities, including support of elites, robustness of institutions and viability of electoral districts.
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