HARGEISA (Reuters) - Clan elders in northern Somalia’s breakaway enclave of Somaliland voted on Friday to extend President Dahir Riyale Kahin’s term on condition that a voter list be finalised and a date set for a presidential election.
It was the third time since April 2008 that Somaliland’s upper House of Elders has extended Kahin’s term, which was due to expire on October 29. Opposition politicians in the lower House of Representatives have demanded the president be impeached.
Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace compared with the rest of Somalia since the Horn of Africa nation descended into chaos in 1991. But repeated delays to the presidential poll have worried rights groups and donors, as well as angered the opposition.
Suleiman Mohamoud Aden, chairman of the House of Elders, called for a vote after an all-night discussion of what he called the “delicate situation” and potential power vacuum.
“We want you to vote for the extension of the president’s term based on the completion of the voter list by the international technical committee and the fixing of the election date with the national electoral commission,” Aden said.
All of the 77 other members then present voted to extend Kahin’s term to last for one month after the ballot, whenever that might be. A poll set for July was put back to September 27, but the electoral commission postponed it again earlier this month.
The commission said it had ordered the latest delay because of rising concerns about whether a fair vote could be held in a political climate inflamed by disputes over the voter register.
Somaliland — which has long sought international recognition as sovereign state — is governed by the opposition-led House of Representatives, which is elected by the people, and an upper house comprised of senior clan elders.
Members of the lower house traded blows in the chamber and one politician pulled out a pistol earlier this month when the proposal to impeach Kahin came up for debate. The African Union says it is concerned and has appealed for calm.
On Wednesday, a senior minister in the Mogadishu government said southern Somalia’s al Shabaab insurgents were also seeking to exploit the growing tensions in Somaliland.