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Puntland - Politics

Puntland is the first of Somalia’s federal units to attempt transition from clan-based representation to directly-elected government. In 1991, after the collapse of the Somali State, the Somali Salvation Democratic Front (SSDF), which was one of the opposition fighting factions against the Somali Government, was the only political and military structure that existed in the northeastern region at the time.

Puntland elders, using the traditional mechanism known as xeer, have been able to maintain the degree of peace and stability which made possible the progress Puntland enjoys today. This mechanism needs to be promoted and strengthened further. Like many Somali traditions, xeer is influenced by Islamic methods of resolving disputes, drawing to a great extent on shari’a law. Analyses of Somali law and justice systems reveal that there are close links between xeer, shari’a and the secular juridical processes, and that these systems operate in complementary ways.

Puntland’s emergence as an autonomous region of Somalia was the result of experiences in pre-colonial self-governments; resistance to and survival from Siad Barre’s despotic rule; ability to overcome and reconcile internal political differences; leadership to establish and manage political processes and government institutions and the capacity to provide limited basic social services, nurture an active civil society and promote a thriving enterprise.

North-east Somalia’s rich history of pre-colonial self-government - its resilience in surviving Siad Barre’s rule, its leading political and military role in overthrowing the Barre regime, its ability to absorb and reintegrate thousands of its ethnic returnees following the fall of Mogadishu - culminated in the establishment of Puntland as an autonomous state of Somalia in 1998. Despite episodes of violent internal conflicts, including the 1992 confrontation with Al-Ittihad al-Islamia, the 2001 disagreement over the transfer of power and the ongoing dispute with Somaliland over Sool and Sanaag, Puntland has managed to reconcile its internal differences and has maintained a degree of law and order. With the active involvement of the civil society and under the firm guidance of the traditional leadership, this has enabled the state to establish and manage political processes and government institutions - providing limited basic services, nurturing an active civil society and a growing private sector After a series of locally sponsored conferences, in which a traditional council of elders (Isimada) played an important role, the SSDF leadership and community elders had at last taken positive steps by calling an all-inclusive general conference in Garowe on May 5, 1998. Puntland, established in 1998 as a Harti-Darood clan-based territorial authority, has long been viewed as one of Somalia’s regions of stability.

The Puntland State emerged in August 1998 from fragmented Somalia to administer the regions of northeast Somalia, initially for a transitional period of three years. The emergent young administration awaits politically the birth of a Federal National Somali government. The primary tasks of the new administration, as defined in the first Puntland Charter, were to establish basic institutions of government, to draft a Puntland Constitution, and to prepare the ground for free and fair elections within a multiparty democratic system.

The Puntland Regional State was formed, based on the design of three branches of government; Legislative (66 members, with 5 women), Judiciary, and Executive (President with Vice-President and 9 Ministers). Two regions- Sool and Eastern Sanag- also joined the former northeastern regions and, thus, jointly formed the Puntland State of Somalia as an autonomous regional administration.

There is not only a functioning constitutional government with security forces and public finance management, but it is built on a unique democratization process. Puntland's leadership banned all political parties for 3 years, starting in August 1998.

In 2001, at the end of the government’s first term, a sharp political constitutional crisis broke out between the then president, Abdullahi Yousuf Ahmed, who sought an extension of mandate, and the opposition, which upheld the provisions of the “Charter”, especially Article 34.2. In June 2001 the failure to agree on a transfer of power at the end of the previous administration’s term led to a constitutional crisis and a brief bout of factional fighting. This was resolved by an internally negotiated provisional settlement in 2003.

Almost two years of political chaos and military confrontation ensued between the President Abdullahi Yousuf and the opposition led by Jama Ali Jama, later replaced by Mohamoud Mussa Hersi (Adde), until May 2003 when a peace deal was concluded with a power-sharing agreement. The transfer issue was then resolved peacefully in July 2004, with an extension of the mandates of the parliament and the government by six months - instead of the two years originally proposed - and the appointment of a new, leaner cabinet.

In late 2004, political uncertainty emerged again in Puntland when President Abdullahi Yousuf Ahmed, became the President of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), leaving a political vacuum in Puntland. However, this situation ended in a peaceful transition of power to Mohamoud Mussa Hersi, who, in early January 2005, contested successfully for the presidency against the interim President, Mohamed Abdi Hashi.

The State planned its first democratic elections in 2008/2009 along with the ratification of its 2001 Constitution as an instrument for solidifying security, deepening peace and providing good governance and social services to its people.

In January 2009, the State of Puntland held its third peaceful and transparent election followed by a smooth transition and a major shift to a new government. Puntland has also made strides toward reconstructing a legitimate, representative government but has suffered some civil strife. On June 21, 2009, Somalia's Puntland State's parliament adopted a new constitution which is said to have 141 provisions and which, for the first time in Puntland's history, provides for the introduction of a multiparty political system. According to the speaker of the Puntland parliament, the Constitution received overwhelming support, with 49 members voting in its favor, while three voted no and three abstained.

In February 2010, the revised “Puntland Constitution” was approved by both the Executive and the Legislative bodies, signed by the President and published in the government’s official bulletin. President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali “Gaas” signed a law establishing the region’s Election Commission on 06 January 2015, as part of an effort to restart the democratization process suspended in July 2013.

Puntland President Dr Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas on 28 January 2014 revealed his new cabinet containing 46-ministers in total. The new government had been enlarged in order to balance clan interests, the President was facing pressure from Clan elders.

The Federal Government of Somalia accelerated efforts to advance the process of building a federal state in 2015. Puntland’s administration initially denounced the Galmudug Interim Administration as unconstitutional, owing partly to its claim over northern Mudug region, which was long considered to be part of Puntland. Following discussions between the Federal Prime Minister and the President of Puntland, the Galmudug Interim Administration revised its constitution on 29 July 2015 to remove any claim to northern Mudug.

Election January 2019

Puntland's top leader wanted to cling on to power and delay the upcoming Puntland’s presidential elections in January 2019. Any extension of his term, which is to expire on January 8, 2019, will be unconstitutional. As the election approached, Dr. Ali geared up for war, rather than campaign for his re-election. And as Puntland’s Interior Minister, Abdullahi Timma-Adde echoed, violence will flare up again. Possibly two to three months before the election date, Dr. Ali will strike Somaliland. Therefore, by the ballot or the bullet, he was determined to remain in power.

Some people in Puntland were urging Former Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali to participate the Puntland presidential race in 2019. Omar served two nonconsecutive terms as Prime Minister of Somalia. He is the son of the former second President of Somalia, Abdirashid Ali Sharmake, which gave him a great name in the Somali people. Omar had a good relationship with the United Arab Emirates. In recent, he requested the Somali government to support Saudi-led coalition against Qatar.

Abdi Farah Saeed “Juxa” is a veteran Somali journalist, writer, poet, statesman, and public figure who has held both senior-level state and federal positions. He was the Education Minister in Puntland from 2009 to 2014. Until January 2018, he was the Federal Minister of the Interior, Federal Affairs, and Reconciliation. In addition to his state and federal posts, Juxa worked with the United Nations as a political affairs officer and for the Puntland Development Research Center as a senior governance researcher. He is expected to run in the Puntland presidential elections in January 2019.

Ali Haji Warsame is a veteran Somali public figure who was the Education Minister of Puntland between 2014 and 2015, a presidential candidate in the federal elections of 2016, a former Puntland presidential candidate in 2014, and a member of the Puntland Focus Group. He is expected to run in the Puntland presidential elections in January 2019.

Unlike the federal elections in Mogadishu, Puntland presidential campaigns start very late. There are security, constitutional, and administrative problems that would hinder a one-man, one-vote election taking place. There is no multiparty system, and no electoral council, no census had been done, and the TPEC wasn’t actually functioning due to lack of funds and time constraints. Under the old 2014 system for electing president within the constitutional framework, Elders selected 66 MPs (Members of Parliament) who in turn elected a president.

Said Abdullahi Deni and Ahmed Elmi Karash were elected as President and Vice-President of Puntland, respectively, on 09 January 2019. Said Abdullahi Deni was declared the winner in the third round of voting in the region's parliament after beating 20 other candidates. Deni garnered 35 votes closely followed by former intelligence chief Mr Asad Osman Abdullahi, who got 31 votes. The former Planning Minister who unsuccessfully contested the Somali presidency in 2017 took over from the Gaas administration which was rocked by allegations of graft, nepotism and insecurity. Deni will lead the region until 2023.

Somalia's five regions - Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South West State, and Jubaland – are in the midst of a presidential election process, which began last November, running through to the end of 2019. Voters in South West State went to the polls in November. Hirshabelle will follow on from Puntland.

The deputy chief of UN mission UNSOM, who is also UN Deputy Special Representative in the country, Raisedon Zenenga, congratulated the electoral commission for organizing and conducting a transparent, peaceful, free and fair electoral process. "We look forward to working closely with the administration of President Deni in Puntland," said Mr. Zenenga in a statement. "We also commend outgoing President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali 'Gaas' and his administration for overseeing a peaceful transfer of power and for establishing conditions that enabled the electoral commission to conduct a successful electoral process”, he added.



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