On Thursday, voters queued in long lines to cast their ballots in historic municipal elections in Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland, the first direct vote in more than half a century.
The international partners of the troubled Horn of Africa country expressed hope that the “historic” polls would lead to greater democracy in Somalia.
Since 1969, tyrant Siad Barre seized power, they were the first one-person one-vote elections, although they have been held in Puntland’s neighbor Somaliland, which declared independence in 1991 but has never been recognized internationally.
Somalia is struggling to recover from decades of conflict and chaos, but it is also facing a bloody Islamist rebellion and natural disasters, including a punishing drought that has left millions vulnerable to hunger.
The Puntland process was praised by international partners, including the united nations, the African Union, and several world governments.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected by lawmakers a year ago, announced in March that the next national elections would be by universal suffrage.
Currently, voting follows a complex indirect model where state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.