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 northwesternmost 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


The Initiative and Referendum InstituteThe Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California is a non-partisan educational organization dedicated to the study of the initiative and referendum, the two most important processes of direct democracy.

The Institute was founded in 1998 in Washington D.C. by M. Dane Waters. Waters, who had cut his teeth using the initiative process pushing term limits across the country, felt it was important for there to be an impartial clearing house for information on direct democracy. In 2004, the Institute joined the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, in order to advance the Institute’s educational mission. Upon the move to USC, John Matsusaka became executive director of the Institute; Waters remained chairman of the advisory board.

Edwin Meese, III, former U.S. Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan, had this to say about the Institute, “[T]he Initiative & Referendum Institute performs a valuable service to the Nation by providing research and educational programs to protect and expand the democratic process of initiative and referendum by the people in the several states. Having this electoral ability is a critical ‘safety valve’ for effective citizenship.”

The Initiative and Referendum Institute collects and distributes information on the initiative and referendum process. And sponsors studies of various aspects of direct democracy, including its effect on public policy, citizen participation, and its reflection of trends in American thought and culture.  The Institute produces a state-by-state guide to the initiative and referendum process and works to educate and update the public on how the process is being utilized across the country, particularly at the state level.

The Initiative and Referendum Institute is a primary source for information about direct democracy, and has been cited by numerous media outlets including, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, CNN, CBS Radio, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The National Journal, Governing Magazine, Court TV’s “Supreme Court Watch” and “Washington Watch”,  Campaigns and Elections Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Congressional Quarterly, Voter News Service, Pacific Radio Network.

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