Somaliland constitutional referendum, 2001
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The 2001 Somaliland constitutional referendum took place on 31 May 2001 in Somaliland, an internationally recognized autonomous region in Somalia. The referendum was held on a draft constitution that affirmed Somalialand's independence from Somalia as a separate state. Two-thirds of eligible voters took part in the referendum and 97.1% of them voted in favour of the constitution. However the referendum was opposed by the Government of Somalia and did not lead to any international recognition of Somaliland's separatism.
In May 1991 after the fall of the military dictator of Somalia, Siad Barre, the Somali National Movement declared the independence of Somaliland. In 1993 an executive presidency was set up with a bicameral legislature and Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal was elected president by a council of elders. In 1997, at a Conference of Somaliland Communities in Hargeisa, a constitution was adopted to last for 3 years until a referendum could take place to bring it into full effect. The constitution was amended in 2000 and the referendum was delayed by one year till 2001. Meanwhile the attempts to form a national government of Somalia and the formation of the Transitional National Government of Somalia in May 2000 encouraged Somaliland to hold a referendum to try to show Somaliland's desire for independence.
The referendum in effect became a vote on the independence of Somaliland due to the inclusion in the constitution of a clause on Somaliland's independence. There was no census or voter lists so community elders decided who was eligible to vote in the referendum.
The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia opposed the referendum, describing it as illegal and said that the government of Somaliland had no authority to unilaterally separate from Somalia. The referendum was also opposed by the leadership of the neighbouring region of Puntland as provocative. No international organisation or country supported the referendum.
A team of ten observers from the Initiative and Referendum Institute observed the referendum. They were only able to visit 57 of the 600 polling stations and avoided the Sool region entirely due to security concerns. However, in those stations recorded they reported that the referendum was open, fair, peaceful and any fraud was rare and insignificant. Nothing is known about the quality of the rest.
About two-thirds of voters took part in the referendum and 97.1% of them voted in favour of the constitution. The international observers agreed that those who did not vote were most likely opposing the referendum, with only 31% turnout in the Las Anod district where there was the most opposition to the constitution.
The President of Somaliland, Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal, described the referendum as having made Somaliland into a nation and put an end to any question of reuniting with Somalia. However despite the support for independence demonstrated in the referendum, no nation has recognised the independence of Somaliland since then, due to fears over ever increasing numbers of unsustainable small states and the African Union's opposition to the splitting of existing states.
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