2021 Somaliland parliamentary election

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All 82 seats in the House of Representatives
42 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
  Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullah Cirro (3x4 crop).png Muse Bihi official portrait 2017 (3x4 crop).jpg Faisal Ali Warabe (3x4 crop).jpg
Leader Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi Muse Bihi Abdi Faysal Ali Warabe
Party Waddani Kulmiye UCID
Leader since 2012 2010 2001
Last election 28 seats, 34.06% 21 seats, 26.93%
Seats won 31 30 21
Seat change New Increase 2 Steady
Popular vote 259,144 257,020 179,937
Percentage 37.23% 36.92% 25.85%
Swing New Increase2.86pp Decrease1.08pp

Somaliland Election, 2021.svg
Map of the electoral results, showing the party with the highest number of seats by region

Parliamentary elections were held in Somaliland on 31 May 2021, alongside local district elections.[2] The election was Somaliland's first parliamentary election since 2005, and politicians pointed to the election as evidence of its political stability.[3] Three parties – the populist Somaliland National Party (Waddani), the centre-left Justice and Welfare Party (UCID), and the ruling party, the liberal Kulmiye Peace, Unity, and Development Party – put forward 246 candidates who competed for 82 seats in the House of Representatives.[3][4] More than one million people, out of about four million residents total, registered to vote.[3] On 6 June, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced that Waddani had received a plurality of seats with 31; Kulmiye received 30, and UCID received 21.[5] As no party had received an outright majority, Waddani and UCID announced they would form a political alliance.[5]

The election was tentatively scheduled and postponed numerous times since the last parliamentary election in 2005.[6] The vote was scheduled for March and then August 2019 before the NEC declared it could not be held that year.[7] After pressure from all three parties in 2020, the NEC agreed to hold an election in May 2021.

Preceding the election, many local politicians expressed hope that it may help Somaliland be recognized as a nation by more members of the international community.[8] President Muse Bihi Abdi and opposition leader Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi called for voters to remain peaceful at the polls. The number of polling stations increased by 61 percent from the 2017 presidential election, and 103 international observers came to monitor the polls and ensure election security.


Somaliland, a self-declared sovereign state in the Horn of Africa which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, had not held elections to parliament since 2005. Unlike Somalia, which has experienced three decades of civil war, Somaliland has largely maintained peace.[3]

Somaliland party leaders agree on 2021 election terms, 12 July 2020

The parliamentary election had been consistently delayed since 2005.[3] In 2015, Somaliland was supposed to hold a joint presidential and parliamentary election; both were postponed following drought and political controversies.[6] Delays in voter registration, caused by droughts forcing pastoralists to migrate, caused a tentative date of March 2017 to be pushed back as well.[6] Negotiations between all three political parties and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) led to the scheduling of the 2017 presidential election, which proceeded as planned, and a parliamentary election in April 2019.[6] The election was delayed and rescheduled for August 2019, when it was also delayed.[7] On 12 July 2020, Somaliland's three national political parties reached an agreement to hold parliamentary and local elections by the end of the year.[9][10] After several weeks of negotiations with the NEC on the practicality of organizing elections in that time, a revised date of May 2021 was settled upon.[11][12]

Local politicians called the election evidence of Somaliland's stability, and expressed hope that a successful democratic election would potentially increase Somaliland's international recognition.[3][8] Ahmed Dheere, the vice-chairman of the ruling Kulmiye Peace, Unity, and Development Party, told reporters "I cannot tell you how important these elections are. We will be the sunshine of the Horn of Africa if we have successful polls".[8] Mark Bradbury, director of the Rift Valley Institute, said that "Somaliland could well end up as the only place in the Horn of Africa that has any form of democratic election at all this year".[8] Both president Muse Bihi Abdi and opposition leader Abdirahman Mohamed Abdullahi called for peace from voters.[3][13]

A woman voting in Somaliland

Before the election, the House of Representatives had no members of minority clans and only one woman.[8] In 2021, one member of a minority clan and 13 women ran for office.[8][13] However, none of the women were elected.[5] Five opposition candidates were arrested before the election, and several journalists were detained.[8] Some politicians criticized the government for perpetually delayed elections and criticized the unelected House of Elders, calling both corrupt and undemocratic.[8] According to activist Ayan Mahamoud, "the two most pressing issues are rights of minority groups such as Gaboye communities and women".[13] Waddani, the major opposition party, made the promotion of women and minorities in society a key issue.[4] The party, aligned with the left wing economically but socially tied to Islamism and nationalism, included in its party manifesto a quorum of women comprising 30 percent of the parliament.[4] Kulmiye, an observer party of the Liberal International, has historically sought the establishment of a market economy but more recently has called for the nationalisation of some companies and a welfare program funded by a wealth tax.[4] Kulmiye was seen as the front-runner ahead of the election.[4] UCID, an observer party of the Socialist International, supports social democratic positions.[4]

Electoral system

The six regions of Somaliland, which also act as electoral constituencies

The 82 MPs in the lower House of Representatives of Somaliland are elected in six multi-member constituencies coterminous with the regions of Somaliland, using open list proportional representation for a five-year term.[14] Residents aged 15 or older are able to vote.[8] The election was the first in Somaliland's history to be supervised by an independent organisation rather than by the president.[4]

Electoral region Seats
01 Awdal 13
02 Sahil 10
03 Marodi Jeh 20
04 Togdheer 15
05 Sanaag 12
06 Sool 12


Voters in the parliamentary and municipal elections

1,065,847 people registered to vote in the parliamentary election, a record for Somaliland.[13][15] 246 candidates vied for 82 seats.[15] Polls opened at 7 a.m. on 31 May.[13] Like the 2017 presidential election, the parliamentary election used iris recognition technology; the 2017 election marked the first time such technology was used for a national election.[4][16][17] The 2021 election had 2,709 polling stations, an increase of 61 percent from 2017, with more than 30,000 people staffing the polls.[16] International election observers were given broad power by the government to monitor.[16] 103 observers came, including former President of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma, Kenyan journalist and anti-corruption activist John Githongo, and South African analyst Greg Mills.[13][18][19] Somaliland, one of the world's poorest nations with a government budget of $339 million, paid for 70 percent of the election's $21.8 million cost; the rest was funded by the European Union, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.[16] Ambassadors from 10 European nations and a European Union ambassador came to the city of Hargeisa to show support for the election.[16]


Official results of the election took about a week to be announced.[13] The NEC released provisional results of five electoral districts – Garadag, Hudun, Lughaya, Salahlay and Zeila – on 2 June.[20] In those districts, Kulmiye received 24 seats, Waddani received 15, and UCID received 10.[20] The NEC warned government officials and political parties against speculating on election results while counting was still underway.[21]

On 6 June, the NEC published the final results, announcing that Waddani had received 31 seats, Kulmiye had received 30 seats, and UCID had received 21 seats.[5] In a joint statement, Waddani and UCID announced they would form a governing coalition.[5] Waddani and UCID also won a majority of seats together in the municipal elections.[5] Of the 13 female candidates, none were elected to a parliamentary seat.[5]

Distribution of seats and popular vote %, by party by region (2021)
Party name Awdal Sahil Marodi Jeh Togdheer Sanaag Sool Total
Waddani Seats: 5 3 7 7 5 4 31
Vote: 37.41% 28.50% 37.59% 43.22% 37.98% 30.58% 37.22%
Kulmiye Seats: 5 4 8 4 4 5 30
Vote: 41.33% 40.39% 38.04% 26.91% 32.84% 42.53% 36.92%
UCID Seats: 3 3 5 4 3 3 21
Vote: 21.24% 31.10% 24.36% 26.91% 29.16% 26.87% 25.84%


Following the election, the British Embassy in Mogadishu published a joint statement of the United Kingdom, the European Union, and several European nations congratulating Somaliland on the elections, which they said "demonstrated a strong commitment to the electoral process, to political participation and to strengthening democracy."[22] Michelle D. Gavin of the Council on Foreign Relations praised Somaliland for the election, saying "Somaliland is not perfect; no place on earth is. But in the midst of regional crisis and global democratic backsliding, Somaliland's achievements and dogged commitment to its principles deserve more notice. Somaliland stands as a rebuke to those who claim that authoritarianism is simply the required price of stability in the region, or that democratic principles are a fetish of foreigners with no real traction on the ground."[23]


  1. ^ https://somalilandelection.com/news/analysing-the-election-results/
  2. ^ "Somaliland: Major Election Stakeholders Concur on May 2021 Polls". Somaliland Sun. 26 August 2020. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Somaliland holds first parliamentary vote since 2005". Reuters. 31 May 2021. Archived from the original on 6 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Stebach, Adèle (31 May 2021). "Somaliland Parliamentary Elections: Peace and Democracy". Africa Elects. Europe Elects. Archived from the original on 2 June 2021. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Somaliland opposition win majority in first parliamentary vote since 2005". Reuters. 6 June 2021. Archived from the original on 7 June 2021. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d Walls, Michael; Pegg, Scott (10 November 2017). "Somaliland votes next week. Its biggest challenges come after the election". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on 28 April 2020. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Parliamentary election may be delayed more than a year in Somaliland". Somaliland Standard. 15 August 2019. Archived from the original on 16 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Somaliland elections: Could polls help gain recognition?". BBC. 31 May 2021. Archived from the original on 7 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Somaliland's political parties agreement – Somalia". ReliefWeb. Archived from the original on 22 July 2020. Retrieved 22 July 2020.
  10. ^ "Somaliland: Political Parties Order NEC to Prepare a Late 2020 Election Schedule within a Fortnight". Somaliland Sun. 12 July 2020. Archived from the original on 17 August 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  11. ^ "Major stakeholders unable to reach a truce on Somaliland's election date". Somaliland.com. 15 August 2020. Archived from the original on 14 August 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Somaliland political parties strike deal with Electoral Commission over elections". Garowe Online. 24 August 2020. Archived from the original on 30 September 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Maruf, Harun; Akule, Khadar Mohamed (31 May 2021). "Polls Open in Somaliland's Local and Parliamentary Elections". Voice of America. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  14. ^ Hoehne, Markus Virgil (18 May 2021). "Somaliland 30 years after secession". Le Monde diplomatique. Archived from the original on 4 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Somaliland National Electoral Commission Released the Final List of Registered Voters". National Electoral Commission. 11 May 2021. Archived from the original on 2 June 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  16. ^ a b c d e Rubin, Michael (1 June 2021). "State Department Is AWOL In Somaliland Elections". 1945. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  17. ^ Burt, Chris (4 January 2018). "Somaliland election saw Iris ID technology deployed". Biometric Update. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  18. ^ Muhumuza, Rodney (31 May 2021). "Somaliland vote highlights peace in breakaway Somali region". The Washington Post. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  19. ^ "Somaliland: Breakaway Somali region votes in parliamentary polls". Al Jazeera. 31 May 2021. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  20. ^ a b "NEC Starts to release Provisional Results of 5 electoral districts". Somaliland Standard. 2 June 2021. Archived from the original on 3 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  21. ^ "NEC Warns against speculations on Somaliland election results". Somaliland Standard. 2 June 2021. Archived from the original on 2 June 2021. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  22. ^ "Joint statement on Somaliland Parliamentary and Local Council Elections". Government of the United Kingdom. 8 June 2021. Archived from the original on 9 June 2021. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  23. ^ Gavin, Michelle (8 June 2021). "Recognizing Somaliland's Democratic Success". Council on Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 8 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.

Further reading