RVI senior researcher Aly Verjee discusses the economics of elections in Somaliland, electoral delays and drought.
Early warning from Somaliland
The experience of Somaliland already provides such evidence, and a warning.
In collaboration with Adan Y. Abokor, Haroon A. Yusuf, Amina M. Warsame, Muhammad A. Farah and Mohamed F. Hersi, I led a research initiative that resulted in the publication of the study, The Economics of Elections in Somaliland: The financing of political parties and candidates, which was designed in response to concerns raised about election financing in the aftermath of the 2012 local council elections, held across all of Somaliland’s regions.
Economics of Elections aimed to assess and map the sources of income and the principal expenditure made by candidates and political parties in the 2012 local council elections and, for comparative purposes, an earlier mass candidate election, Somaliland’s 2005 parliamentary elections. (We judged the 2002 local council elections to be too distant to Somaliland’s current circumstances, both political and financial.) 93 candidates were surveyed, 29 from the 2005 parliamentary elections (11.8 per cent of the 246 candidates in that election), and 64 from the 2012 local council elections (2.7 per cent of the 2,368 candidates in that election). Of these, 66 per cent were candidates elected in 2005, and 56 per cent were candidates elected in 2012. Those interviewed came from five of the six regions of Somaliland: Maroodi-Jeex, Saaxil, Togdheer, Awdal and Sanaag.
Relative to previous polls, the November 2012 electoral process appeared to show a sharp increase in spending on individual electoral campaigns as reported by candidates, political parties and political associations. Somaliland has a constitutional limit of three 29 official political parties at any one time, but every ten years, via local elections, new political associations can be formed and vie for official party status on the basis of election results. As much as USD 50 million may have been mobilized for election campaign expenses in these elections. This sum far exceeded the costs of administering the election, at approximately USD 11 million from government and donor sources; it amounted to almost half of the country’s entire national annual budget, roughly USD 100 million, for 2012. Or, by a more recent measure, election campaign costs are nearly half of the emergency funding the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs called for in March 2016 to address humanitarian needs in Puntland and Somaliland.