Puntland: Setting the scene for the upcoming elections
November 6, 2012
As part of Puntland’s preparations for the upcoming local elections, a team from our local partner, the Puntland Development Research Center (PDRC), accompanied the Transitional Puntland Electoral Commission (TPEC) on a tour to raise awareness of the democratization process.
A civic education campaign
The wider awareness-raising campaign took place in almost all regions and districts of Puntland, with PDRC participation in four districts; Eyl, Godob-Jiran, Burtinle and Galdogob. The campaign was designed to inform people in Puntland about the local elections and the new governance system that is going to replace the traditional clan-based political system. In order to disseminate these messages as widely as possible, TPEC teamed up with PDRC’s mobile Audio-Visual Unit. PDRC’s films and video clips are an efficient and powerful tool that resonates well with a large number of people in Puntland. A key advantage of films over written materials is that they are more widely accessible – for example even to those who are illiterate. The films shown focused on the political history of the Somali Region, the political transition and the electoral process in general.
A mandate to inform and document
Researchers from the mobile Audio-Visual Unit followed the Electoral Commissioners on their mission across different districts. The PDRC team assisted the Commissioners with organizing film screenings and forums in remote areas of Puntland to educate the local population and nomadic communities about the democratization process. They also documented the process as Commissioners assessed the population size and laid the groundwork for the elections.
A challenging mission
A challenge our researchers faced was that many of the audiences in remote villages had not been exposed to democratic norms and principles. Negative interpretations of democracy were prevalent among a large number of participants before the PDRC team was able to engage with the population. A feeling of marginalization runs deep among nomadic and rural communities visited. One participant explained: “We typically assume that the government and the local administration do not operate beyond the paved roads.” Distrust in government institutions and the multi-party system cannot be erased overnight, but the outreach of the PDRC team and TPEC has made steps in this direction.
During the discussions and over the course of the workshops some participants changed their minds, feeling that the new governance system could present them with an opportunity to participate and help them to resolve their problems. As one of the participants put it: “It seems a big light is about to shine upon us. If the new multi-party electoral system is intended to erase the previous crippling political structure, then that is the light. Then we fully pledge our support for this new system – we’ll even campaign for it and participate in the elections.” According to another participant, “this process is paving the way for giving the victory to the winner and satisfaction for the loser by not compromising the courage of the voters.”
More than 1,250 people reached in Puntland
Over the course of the campaign, the team’s activities were attended by more than 1,250 participants with a special focus on youth, women and elders. Many more people were reached through live radio broadcasts of the educational events.
Made possible with the support of the European Commission and the contributions from DANIDA, Norway, Sweden, the Swiss Confederation and USAID Somalia.