Self-declared independent state of Somaliland has called off school for eight days in preparation towards its third presidential election scheduled for November 13.
The Education ministry announced this week that schools including universities will be closed from November 7 to November 15, two days after the polls.
The directive follows a request from the National Electoral Commission (NEC) which says it will use most of the schools as polling centres.
Somaliland is anticipating a smooth election which will be the first in the Horn of Africa region to be trouble-free and the first in Africa to use the iris-recognition biometric voter registration system.
This election will mark a milestone in Somaliland’s electoral development as it will be the first time that the incumbent has not challenged for the top job.
The elections were scheduled to be held in March but was postponed due to the drought condition in the region.
Three candidates are vying to replace the country’s fourth president Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo who withdrew from running for a second seven-year term.
The three candidates are former minister Muse Bihi Abdi of the ruling KULMIYE (Peace, Unity and Development Party); veteran politician Faisal Ali Warabe of UCID (Justice and Welfare Party); and then the former speaker of the House of Representatives Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Irro of Waddani (National Party).
They started campaigning on October 21 and so far, no incidents of violence have been recorded as each candidate was assigned specific days to campaign to avoid clashes.
Out of the about 4 million Somaliland population, 704, 089 registered voters are expected to elect the new president. There are 1,642 polling stations in the 21 constituencies across the six regions of the country.
A team of 60 international election observers from 24 countries have been deployed to the country by the international election observation mission (EOM) funded by the British government.
“This election will mark a milestone in Somaliland’s electoral development as it will be the first time that the incumbent has not challenged for the top job,” said the leader of the team, Dr Michael Walls of the Development Planning Unit (DPU) at the University College London.
They have held successful presidential elections in 2003 and 2010 including a parliamentary election in 2005.
Somaliland declared unilateral independence from Somalia on May 18, 1991. It has been under pressure to hold talks with Somalia which have so far been futile.
Described as the most peaceful state in the Horn of Africa region, Somaliland can boast of an army, its own currency and legal system.
The territory has been experiencing stability and economic prosperity. It has been influential in the fight against piracy and terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
26 years of diplomatic isolation has made it difficult for Somaliland to have access to loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
It is regarded as the autonomous region of Somalia and not a sovereign state.