Accepted Paper:

Capturing democratic standards: the 2005 Somaliland parliamentary elections between plural authorities and claims for recognition  
Luca Ciabarri (University of MIlan)

Paper short abstract:

The 2005 Somaliland elections represented for its ruling class the last stage of a strategy for having the new state recognised, insofar as they epitomise the current rhetoric on democratisation. The paper analyses the different meanings attached to such events and the related social practices.

Paper long abstract:

In the current rethoric on democratisation, Somaliland - a self-declared new state emerged from the dissolution of the Somali state in 1991 - represents a very peculiar case: having struggled succesfully against dictatorship during the 80s and carried out later a pacification process which eventually led to the formation of new democratic institutions, its efforts and standards would seem completely in line with international governance discourse. Though, such achievements are not recognized by international community. What does not fit the standard is linked to the present conditions for recognition and acceptance of new political unities in the African arena. The parliamentary elections held in September 2005 thus represented, in the eye of the local ruling class, the last stage of a legitimizing strategy to obtain the recognition as an independent State. The new institutions should replace and at the same time inglobe into the structure of a modern state the beel system (government of the community) which characterised the period from 1993 to 2001. The reality however shows different degrees of compenetration, overlapping and competition amongst different political and social actors where the state cohexists with competing authorities and forms of rule. Familiar and corporate forms of politics intervene and result more incisive than individual participation to the electoral process. Such aspects have always been pointed out as one of the main reason of the historical failure of Somali democracy in the 60s, yet the evidence now shows that they simply work, producing representatives which are legitimized by the people. The paper sets out to analyse such interfaces and multi-level dynamics involving the relationships between corporate logic/individual logic, historical attitudes to elections, the crossing of local and external meanings as well as local uses of this quite specific tool. Particular attention, approaching the socio-cultural embeddings of the secret ballot technology, will be devoted to the selection of the candidates and the mobilization to vote.

Panel W065
Cultures of voting: ethnographies of the secret ballot