Robin Le Mare, of Allithwaite, serves on the Election Observer Mission, as as a result, gained first-hand experience into the political process in one of the most controversial countries in the world.
The team arrived ahead of the election process, which began on November 13, to impartially observe and report on the election.
Following Somaliland’s election, the 60-member mission, funded by Britain’s government and drawing on members from 27 countries is now finalising its interim report to Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission as observers return to self-declared capital city Hargeisa.
Somaliland is a self-declared but internationally unrecognised republic within the borders of Somalia.
Mr Le Mare said: “After a week of training and induction into Somali Society and Somaliland’s history we spread across the country to observe the presidential election.
“I travelled to Burao in the centre of the country.
“Polling day started with breakfast at 5am so we could get to a polling station to observe its opening. 16 stations later, at 6pm, we observed the closing and count.
“My partner and I were very impressed by all the polling station staff and their polite, efficient administration of voting. One said he could sleep on Sunday night – his head was so full of excitement and determination to get his job done correctly.
“When the lady chair took ill, her secretary took over, but only after she had confirmed this with her superiors in the National Electoral Commission.”
On polling day, observers witnessed opening, voting and closing processes in approximately 350 polling stations across Somaliland’s six regions, as well as the tallying process.
Observers noted that polls largely opened and closed on time, in a generally calm environment, with peaceful voting, and no major violence or intimidation observed. Eligible voters were mostly able to cast their votes without hindrance.
Domestic observers and party agents were present and able to perform their duties without restrictions in most polling stations visited, although we note that there were occasions when observers were denied entry or asked to leave.
Mr Le Mare added: “I first visited Hargeisa in February 1994, three years after a large and long peace conference declared the State of Somaliland as independent from Somalia.
“The city, then, was a scene of dreadful destruction. Now, it is a large, busy and most hospitable city; no problem walking the streets from hotel to very good Yemeni and Ethiopian restaurants.”
The mission will publish its final report in the first half of 2018.