The IRI Statement on Somaliland Referendum – On behalf of the American, Swiss and British observation team members assembled by the Initiative & Referendum Institute, we wish to express our deepest appreciation to the Somaliland Government and people for their help and support during our visit.

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Our purpose in being in Somaliland was to witness the historic election held on May 31, 2001, that was intended to give the citizens of Somaliland the opportunity to freely cast their vote in support of or in opposition to the nation’s proposed constitution. Even though it is too early to definitively state whether or not this goal was achieved, we can state that we were impressed by the level of effort in which the Government and the people put forth in seeing that the election was conducted in a fair and open manner.


We must also commend the Somaliland Government and the citizens for conducting this election free of violence and must also commend the neighboring governments for not interfering with Somaliland’s efforts at becoming a true Democracy. This election demonstrated 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.

Statement By Initiative And Referendum Institute On Somaliland Observation TeamOur role in Somaliland was not to comment on the contents of the Constitution, but to ascertain whether or not the citizens of Somaliland were allowed to participate fully in a fair and open election. Our final report, which will be issued over the coming weeks, will hopefully help the Government and the people learn valuable lessons from this election and prepare them for future elections. No election is problem-free and this election was no exception, but based on our initial observations, the election seems to have been conducted in a manner that was consistent with recognized international practices for referendum elections.

Statement By Initiative And Referendum Institute On Somaliland Observation Team
Somaliland “president” Mohamed Ibrahim Egal shakes hands with voters waiting to cast their ballot at a polling station in Hargeisa, Somaliland, 31 May 2001 during the constitutional referendum. Ten years after Somaliland’s leaders withdrew from union with Somalia, the population will decide on whether to endorse their 1997 constitution. Somaliland, a former English colony that became a northwestern province of Somalia in July 1960, has almost all the trappings of a sovereign state, including a relatively effective administration as well as its own flag, currency and legislature. AFP PHOTO/Pedro UGARTE (Photo credit should read PEDRO UGARTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Again, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Somaliland Government and the Somaliland people. We are honored that they would allow us the opportunity to help them in their struggle for international recognition and wish them well. We hope that when our report is issued that it will help in their struggle.

The IRI Observation Team Statement

June 7, 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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