HARGEISA -The National Electoral Commission (NEC) said they are deploying new voter ID cards as part of their preparation of the up-coming presidential elections this year on Tuesday.
In a press conference held at their headquarters, NEC spokesman, Mr Ahmed Hirsi Geele said after consultations with the three political parties and donors, it has been agreed that there was need for new ID cards to make the election a lot smother.
“I want to tell the public, the reason we have changed the previous cards is due to problems and abuses that resulted from the previous registrations. After analysing it we have decided to completely abandon the old ones in order to achieve an election that’s free and fair,” he said.
NEC said the new cards will be more secure and strict than the current ones and admitted that there were sham registrations including the use of children, duplications, foreigners and other frauds. “We now have the funds to issue the new cards. Once we clean up the database, eliminate all fraud registrations and confirm the lists to legitimate voters, we will hand out the new cards,” Mr. Ahmed said.
In order to proceed with this process the spokesman said, they have contracted a South African company that specialises in biometrics and smart card technologies after a long bidding process. Mr Ahmed added, although all the companies including the local ones were competent, Face Technologies, fulfilled all of their requirements.
He confirmed there will not be new voter registrations however they will sort out the database and provide accurate information and legitimate voters and the use of biometric will eliminate duplications.
He also cited they have completed forming the regional electoral committees in a process that took about three weeks. Mr Ahmed added that the formation was successful and they are now ready to resume their work as soon as possible.
“Some people were complaining but we are doing our best” said the chairman. “There are always complaints and you always do mistakes when you are doing something but I believe we made the minimum” he concluded.
Mr Ahmed blamed the problem of the double registration on the Somaliland citizens emphasising that the system supported nations with much larger population than Somaliland. He urged the people to voluntarily return their cold cards as well as any extra cards to the Commission’s office before they issue the new smart cards.
Speaking about the date of the coming elections, the spokesman said he is not going to mention any date for now until they make sure the process is complete and strong foundation is established for free election.
“I’m not saying any date now but I assure you the elections will be held within this year, 2010. That is all i can say,” Ahmed said.
He urged the public not to abuse the system and to work with the NEC.
NEC is an independent body that was established in 2001 and consists of seven members who are nominated by different institutions; three members are nominated by the president, two by the House of Elders and two more by the opposition parties.
About a million people are believed to have registered in the October 2009 voter registration that included the use of bio-metric technology.
Somaliland, with a population of 3.5 million has developed a well-functioning democracy, with free and fair elections being held regularly, according to international observers. However, the last presidential election has been postponed a number of times due to disputes and abuse of the voting system and now no date has been set yet.
The election is funded by the governments of Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the United States.