Thursday will mark a historic milestone for Somalia’s Puntland region: its first democratic local elections since 1967.
Seven political associations, including President Saed Abdullahi Deni’s KAAH party, are fielding a total of 3,775 candidates for the Puntland Local Council Elections. Of these, women account for an impressive 28.2%, while young candidates represent a notable proportion.
More than 387,000 voters have registered for the elections. Women make up nearly half the electorate at 49.7%, and young voters aged 18-30 represent a substantial 60.6%.
International organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations, backing the elections, jointly stated that the poll “could serve as a beacon and catalyst for broadening democratic governance across Somalia.” Former president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo also applauded Puntland for this landmark event.
Despite broad support for the local election process, controversy lingers over the timing and method of the upcoming parliamentary elections, stirring skepticism toward Deni’s leadership. A faction within the opposition demands transparency about the impending Puntland presidential election in January 2024 before any further discussion on the local council elections.
Local elections are scheduled across all 37 districts of Puntland on May 25.
Political rallies and possible allegations of fraud during and after the elections may fuel tensions across Puntland. There’s potential for confrontations between supporters of rival political groups and between protesters and security forces. Disruptions to local transport near rally locations and polling stations are also likely.
The Puntland Police Force has announced a suspension of all transportation until 06:00 on May 27.
The initial election timetable by TPEC in September 2019 slated the Puntland LGEs for June 2022. However, Somalia’s state-level federal elections in 2022 led to political, economic, and technical challenges, pushing back the date.