The self-declared republic of Somaliland, which is more stable and peaceful than Somalia, is having its third elections.
The self-declared republic of Somaliland has opened polls on the presidential elections. The poll is its third, and with this one Somaliland wants to prove its democratic credentials for independence from embattled Somalia.
An election spokesman who spoke with the BBC confirmed that the election will use an iris-based biometric voting system - a world first. The creation of Somaliland was promulagated in 1991 when the northern territory, which is more tribally homogenous and stable than the rest of Somalia, broke away and ever since it has been striving spiritedly for full independence.
Three candidates are running for the state's top office, seasoned politicians Muse Bihi of the ruling Kulmiye party and opposition candidates Abdirahman Iro and Faysal Ali Warabe, who was defeated in previous elections in 2010.
A voter who spoke with AFP said that the election commenced peacefully and he hoped it would be of great significance to the region. "The procedure started peacefully this morning and we are confident that this election is going to be a milestone for the entire region," said Iro as he voted.
At least 60 observers are stationed in the country to monitor the poll, and just over 700 000 are eligible to vote. Somaliland's history of peaceful, credible elections and democratic transition sets it apart from anarchic southern Somalia, and indeed much of east Africa.
However a decision by authorities to block all social media when polling stations close at 18:00 (1500 GMT) was criticised by Human Rights Watch last week. Rashid Abdi, from the International Crisis Group defended this position saying that it would stop the spreading of "fake news and misinformation" during the election period.
Despite its lack of recognition, the state has managed to draw significant investment from abroad, notably Gulf nations.
Kuwait financed the renovation of the airport in the capital Hargeisa, and a Dubai-based company has been contracted to expand the Berbera port in a bid to compete with Djibouti for container traffic from Ethiopia.
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