Voting kicked off at 7 a.m. in the breakaway region of Somaliland on Monday as over 700,000 voters lined up in queues to vast their ballot to elect their fifth president.
Queues started forming in a number of the stations as voters lined up to vote in 1,642 polling centers.
“I am very happy to vote and I will give my vote to the most suitable candidate,” Sagal Mohamed told Xinhua.
Muse Bihi Abdi will be defending the ruling party seat while former House Speaker Abdirahman Irro is vying in Wadani ticket. Faisal Ali Warabe is running under Justice and Development Party (UCID).
This is the first poll in Somaliland to use a new voter registration system, which itself marks the first use of iris-scan biometric technology in an African election.
Meanwhile, a 60-member team of international observers from 27 countries is monitoring the polls.
The international election observation mission (EOM), which has been invited by Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), said it will conduct its observation activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, emphasizing the impartiality and independence of that observation.
The EOM is led by the Development Planning Unit (DPU) at University College London (UCL), and Somaliland Focus UK.
This EOM marks the fourth election in Somaliland observed and reported on by DPU and Somaliland Focus since 2005.
“Preparations for this mission have been intense, and we are very appreciative of the invaluable assistance we have had from so many stakeholders in Somaliland, and from the British government in funding this mission,” Michael Walls of DPU, chief observer on the EOM.
“Now that we are seeing the hard work bear fruit, we are hoping we will see a spirited and peaceful polling day marking another step in Somaliland’s democratic development,” Walls said.