afrol News, 17 March - Non-recognised Somaliland, one of Africa's leading democracies, by constitution only has three political parties. President Ahmed Silanyo wants to discuss if more are needed.
This week President Silanyo of Somaliland issued a press release in which he announced the formation of committee that will research into whether more political parties should be permitted in Somaliland politics.
Even though, Somaliland is multi-party system country with viable democratic institutions, many groups including the young generation have been calling for more parties than the current three. The limit was originally formulated to avoid region and clan-based parties and a development similar to chaotic Somalia.
The constitutional limit of three parties came in 2002, during the formation of Somaliland's multi-party system, when more than ten parties had registered. The legislation stated a party must receive at least 20 percent of the popular vote from four of Somaliland's six regions in order to advance to the next stage.
Six parties initially met these criteria and went into a battle to further minimise the number of parties in the country. A constitution was agreed on that only three parties with the most votes will be approved. The electoral commission announced the current three parties received the most votes and the other three parties had to merge with one of the three.
Those that are advocating for more political parties claim it would increase diversity of viable voice in the political dialogue of the country. Especially the Somalilander youth has called for parties that could better represent their aspirations than the current three, dominated by elder men.
Others argue that the minority groups currently disagreeing with Somaliland's unilateral split from Somalia in 1991 would be better integrated into the political dialogue by allowing for even pro-Somalia union parties.
In particular the eastern Sool region, where trans-border clan ties have caused resistance to the affiliation to Somaliland, the free establishment of regionally based political parties could create valuable channels for citizens to voice their grievances, constitutional reform advocates hold.
Those opposing the reform fear exactly the establishment of such parties, which could promote regional or clan-based factions and end up in political chaos similar to Somalia.
Mohamed Ibrahim Haji Abdi, founder of the media 'SomalilandPress' told afrol News that there is widespread concern that if the Pandora's Box is opened, "then each tribe or region will create their own political party thus dividing the cohesiveness that has made Somaliland democracy model in the region and Africa's best kept secret."
Opponents of reform also hold that the current three political parties - the formerly ruling Justice and Development party (UCID), the United Peoples Democratic party (UDUB) and the ruling Peace, Unity and Development party (Kulmiye) - are doing an adequate job and therefore there is no need for another party to join the group.
Mr Abdi says he personally is against the reform, at least for the moment. "I feel that the current three political parties that we have are doing a sufficient job for a country of our size and population," he told afrol News.
"I am aware of the discontent my generation has with the current political parties and the elderly bureaucrats that are still holding on to the post, however in time these old lions will have to retire," Mr Abdi adds. "In the meantime the three parties need to reform whereby the leadership position must have a term limit and not be a life time position."
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