On 2 December 2015, the Rift Valley Institute’s Rift Valley Forum, in collaboration with the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies and the Observatory of Conflict and Violence Prevention (OCVP), Hargeysa University, hosted a panel discussion launching the report of the study The Economics of Elections in Somaliland: The financing of political parties and candidates.
After the November 2012 elections in Somaliland, candidates, political parties and political associations reported that spending on individual campaigns had increased sharply relative to spending in previous polls. Voters, politicians and parties expressed concern that the high cost of campaigning threatens the integrity of a fledgling electoral system. In response to these concerns, researchers working with the Rift Valley Institute conducted a study to examine sources of income and expenditures by candidates and political parties in Somaliland’s 2005 parliamentary and 2012 local council elections.
About fifty participants, including members of the Electoral Commission, representatives of three political parties, members of parliament, members of local councils, women’s organisations, INGOs, and local civil society organisations, attended the panel discussion, which was chaired MP Abdulqadir I. Jirde. Researchers Aly Verjee, Amina Milgo, Haroon Ahmed Yusuf, Suad Abdi, and Adan Abokor presented the research.
Members of the audience expressed their appreciation of the research, stating that the attention it brought to the issue of increasing election spending was timely and important. Participants discussed options to limit the misuse of campaign financing in the coming Somaliland elections. Mohamed Barawaani of the Somaliland Non State Actors Forum noted that the 'closed list' approach of the Local council elections in 2002 might be a good option, stating that expenditures were lower in the first Somaliland local council elections because campaign spending was managed by parties, rather than by individual candidates.
Mohamed Hassan Gani, the Director General of the Ministry of Finance, suggested that the trend of increasing spending reflected the influence of the diaspora members with personal interests in the outcome of the elections. Others pointed out that political parties do not give their candidates adequate campaign support and, as a result, candidates resort to personal and clan connections to find support for their campaigns. Abdulfatah of the National Electoral Commission also observed that many people are more prosperous in 2015 than 2002, when the first elections took place in Somaliland.
The President of Hargeysa University, Dr Mohamoud Yusuf, gave the closing speech.