- All major political parties in the self-declared state of Somaliland have reached a consensus that country's the next presidential elections should not be hold later than 6 April next year. This extends the term of President Dahir Riyale Kahin.
The agreement came after a long deadlock in negotiations, threatening to destabilise the otherwise peaceful and stable country, which since its unilateral independence declaration in 1991 has achieved well-established democratic institutions.
According to a statement by the Hargeisa-based Somalilander government, the country's three registered and approved political parties UDUB, UCID and Kulmiye have "agreed on the process of the upcoming presidential and local government elections that has been delayed due to unforeseen technical reasons."
The three political parties, of which Kulmiye and UCID represent the opposition, "agreed that the Somaliland presidential election to be held first and to take place not later than 6 April 2009 and the local government elections to follow."
The Somaliland Election Commission had facilitated the agreement and led negotiations between the ruling UDUB and the opposition parties. Somaliland Vice-President Ahmed Yusuf Yassin attended the signing ceremony in Hargeisa's Hotel Mansoor, and signed the agreement on behalf of the UDUB party.
President Riyale, who earlier won Somaliland elections termed free and fair, originally saw his term in office ending on 15 May. But in April, parliament passed a motion extending the President's term because preparations for new polls were not according to time schedules. The decision caused loud protests among opposition parties, threatening they would treat Mr Riyale's presidency as "illegal".
The political crisis that followed was seen to threaten social peace in Somaliland, thus leading the ruling party and opposition to seek a negotiated solution. Also foreign relations were threatened. Donor countries in May announced they would withhold millions of dollars destined towards Somaliland's voter registration process until the political crisis was resolved.
During the negotiations, headed by the Election Commission, the ruling party was obliged to make some concessions to assure opposition recognition of President Riyale's extended presidency term. The agreement emphasises that state funds and staff cannot be used to promote Pesident Riyale's and other UDUB candidates' campaigns and that access to state-owned media shall be equal to all political parties. Further, two free seats in the Commission were given to the opposition. No further extensions of President Riyale's administration were to be allowed.
The deal has been celebrated as a victory of the tradition of peacefully negotiated settlements in Somaliland. Both the opposition and Vice-President Yassin hailed the Somaliland's "peace and democracy" traditions and urged donors to stay confident in the unrecognised country.
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