On Tuesday, after a long delay, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) announced that Muse Bihi won the 2017 Presidential election. Muse Bihi received 55% of the total votes cast, making him the first Somaliland President ever to win over 50% of the vote. The election was fought square and fair, there was no fraud or rigging at the polling stations. In fact, to combat fraud, the NEC has deployed, an Iris detection technology, to all polling stations.
When an election is held, there is a winner and loser. Usually, after the election results, the loser concedes and congratulates the winner. But on November 2017, Somaliland presidential election candidate Irro refused to concede despite losing by a wide margin. He was falsely claiming that the election was rigged. Many of Irro’s angry and disillusioned supporters believe his claim, including those who used violence if he did not win.
The NEC has repeatedly tried to convince Irro that the electoral system is fair and not being compromised. The NEC has conducted recount after recount, and the final results confirmed that Irro lost the election.
After the election results, in a meeting at Ambassador Hotel, attended by key senior Wadani party leaders and supporters, Irro unleashed a tirade against how the NEC conducted the election, the Silanyo administration, and President-elect Muse Bihi. He even blamed Muse Bihi for the deaths in recent election riots.
Irro said,” The election results were illegitimate due to rigging, but I will accept them nonetheless, to save the nation from turmoil….” This is not an acceptable concession speech especially for a fledgling democracy such as Somaliland.
Moreover, Wadani vice presidential candidate, Mohamed Aw-ali, in speech to Wadani supporters, said bluntly, “Kulmiye robbed the election.”
Irro’s political career started in 2005 when the good voters in Sahel region gave him a chance to be a member of the Parliament with 1,800 total votes. To advance his political agenda, then candidate Silanyo helped Irro to become the speaker. He then founded the Wadani party with the backing and blessing from the Silanyo administration. Eventually, he became a candidate to the highest office of the land.
Many people, including myself, believe the process of someone like Irro with no political experience or liberation credentials first becoming SL House speaker and then a presidential nominee, was based on a sham and fraud.
Instead of showing gratitude for the generosity Somalilanders offered him, he chose to undermine our peace and stability by claiming that the election was being rigged. His disparaging comments about our electoral system, and lies, were intended to sow contempt and mistrust among our citizens. And his divisive rhetoric was like adding fuel to the already Somaliland’s combustible clan politics.
Irro lost the election fair and square. Muse Bihi won the election because more people voted for him, and his victory was not “hand-manufactured”, as Irro was alleging. Irro needs to understand that President-elect is not his enemy; but he was just his political opponent.
When election is over, it is important not only to graciously concede and to congratulate the winner, but also to stand and unite behind President-elect, and pray for Allah bless his stewardship of our country—a country fighting to be accepted as member of the world community. If he succeeds, Somaliland will also move forward. The whole race was all about advancing Somaliland cause and making it a better place for all its citizens.
Doing so, is a vital step of strengthening our institutions and upholding our nascent democracy, because it legitimizes the outcome of the election.
Now, it’s time out to put behind our differences, to stop bickering and partisan rancor, and to mend our division. To start the healing, Irro should call President-elect Muse Bihi and congratulate him of becoming the 5th President of Somaliland, and offer to meet him as soon as possible, because the campaign is over.
And he should take a cue from a quote from the best concession speech of a losing candidate in U.S. presidential election in a recent time:
“I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together.” Senator John McCain urged his supporters after he lost to Obama in 2008 U.S. presidential election.
We owe to the voters who stood up in a scorching sun just to cast a vote, to find way to come together and unite once again for our common pursuit of peace and development. We are all fighting for the same cause—making Somaliland a free, independent country and a member of communities of nations.
May Allah Bless Somaliland