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Somaliland: Voters finally head to the polls amidst widespread corruption

14 November 2017

The ruling Kulmiye party's candidate Musa Bihi Abdi and his main challenger Abdirahman Irro from the opposition Wadani party are slight favourites over Feisal Ali Warabe, a veteran politician from the opposition party UCID. Local and parliamentary elections have been delayed until October 2018, the first official vote for the lower house in 12 years, while the upper house hasn't been elected since 1997, he said.

Incumbent Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo is not seeking re-election.

This is Somaliland's first presidential election since 2010 and the stakes are high.

The vote is set to be the most sophisticated yet with some 700,000 voters registered using biometric eye scanners which will identify them before they cast their ballots.

In a first for Africa, these elections employed the use of iris-scan biometric technology to prevent anyone from voting a couple of times, said Somaliland's electoral officials.

Self-declared independent state of Somaliland has announced its decision to shut down the internet service and block all social media networks on election day November 13, until the results are released.

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"It is very hard to control social media and the overall media, but we have requested the communication companies to temporarily suspend the social media platforms", said Muse.

Authorities will block social media from when polls close at 6 p.m. until the victor is announced at an unspecified time, Information Minister Osman Abdilahi Sahardeed said by phone from Hargeisa, the main city. The move, according to the National Electoral Commission (NEC), is to avoid the spread of fake news in the country.

Somaliland writer and activist Barkhad Dahir, said the election was crucial to proving the state's democratic credentials.

Somaliland, a former British protectorate, won independence in 1960 but days later joined with Somalia.

The vote comes as much of the rest of Somalia battles Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, who were blamed for the country's worst-ever terrorist attack - an October 14 truck-bombing in the federal capital, Mogadishu, that claimed more than 300 lives.

Somaliland: Voters finally head to the polls amidst widespread corruption