HARGEISA, Somalia (Reuters) - The presidential election in Somalia’s breakaway republic of Somaliland was free and fair, international observers said on Monday.
More than one million people voted on Saturday in Somalia’s separatist northern enclave that is seeking international recognition as a sovereign state.
“Despite some irregularities, the election process was fair, free and expressed the will of the people. We are looking to a speedy and clear result that is accepted by all the parties,” Conrad Heine, an observer from Britain, told reporters.
Three candidates stood in the election that opposition leader Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo is expected to win, ousting Dahir Rayale Kahin, who has been in office for nine years.
A former British colony, Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but has not been recognised internationally despite its relative stability and the establishment of democratic institutions.
Over the same period, anarchic Somalia has been subject to continuing violence that has claimed the lives of tens of thousands.
International monitors however said they were concerned at complaints by the Somaliland opposition blaming the incumbent president’s ruling party for using public funds, state media and vehicles for its campaign.
Some residents in disputed areas along Somaliland’s border with Puntland, a semi-autonomous enclave, refused to vote. Militia supporting Puntland raided polling stations, killing four people and seizing ballot boxes.
“The unwillingness of portions of the electorate to participate in the polls in Sool and East Sanag was a matter of concern,” Hein said. But he said that the election had met the criteria required.
The International Republican Institute (IRI), a U.S.-based group which monitors elections, said the vote was peaceful, without major incident and generally met international standards.
IRI cautioned the political parties and the public against jumping to conclusions before the final result is announced.
“Election day is only one part of a larger and longer four part process, which includes the pre-election environment, pre-election administration, election day voting, and vote counting and post-election adjudication resulting in acceptance of a legitimate result,” it said in a statement.
The National Election Commission chairman, Essa Yusuf Mohammed, told reporters that most of the votes had been counted, except those cast in the capital Hargeisa, but declined to comment on early results.
“Until now, ninety percent of the votes have been counted. We are waiting for Hargeisa to finish soon,” he said.