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Washington, DC: At the request of the Somaliland Government, the Initiative and Referendum Institute has sent ten Institute representatives to Somaliland to observe the nation’s first national referendum election to be held on May 31, 2001. The election is being held to give the citizens of Somaliland an opportunity to freely cast their vote in support of or in opposition to the nation’s proposed constitution. “The Institute is in Somaliland not to comment on the contents of the Constitution, but to ascertain whether or not the citizens of Somaliland are allowed to participate fully in a fair and open election,” stated Dane Waters, President of the Initiative & Referendum Institute, a nonpartisan non-political research organization that provides information on the initiative and referendum process to citizens and governments around the world.

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“This election demonstrates the Somaliland Government’s understanding that no government can be considered legitimate without allowing the citizens the opportunity to freely show their support or opposition to the proposed constitution and the rules and procedures in which the government will operate,” stated Dennis Polhill, Chairman of the Institute and leader of the observation team in Somaliland.

Somaliland is located in the horn of Africa and encompasses the northwestern-most portion of Somalia. Somaliland declared its’ independence from Somalia in 1991. Election day, May 31st is the 10th anniversary of its declaration of independence. The country has a population estimated to be 2.5 million; 750,000-900,000 are expected to cast a vote in this historic election.

Somaliland is not officially recognized by the United States or many of the Western Nations. However, this vote, along with other steps taken by the government over the last several years, are all designed to show the international community that the country is serious in establishing a true democracy with further hopes of gaining international recognition.

The Institute will issue a report soon after the election that will provide an analysis of the extent to which the election is held in a fair and open manner, consistent with recognized international practices for referendum elections.

For Details, Contact:

  1. Dane Waters

Initiative & Referendum Institute

Phone 202.429.5539

May 30, 2001

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