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A Democratic Poll in A Country that Doesn’t Exist

People in Somaliland are hoping that Monday’s elections will boost the breakaway republic’s chances of gaining international recognition as an independent state. Voters here are eligible to vote as young as 15-year-old, as they are considered to have reached adulthood. Since declaring independence from Somalia it has not been recognised internationally but functions like a nation state – with its own passport, currency, flag, government and army. Somaliland might be more democratic than some other countries in the region, but its system is far from perfect. The parliamentary poll is more than 10 years’ late. Municipal elections, which will be held at the same time, should have taken place four years ago. Somaliland’s 30-year quest for recognition has so far fallen on deaf ears. Foreign powers argue that Somaliland’s status should be decided by the African Union, which is reluctant to see states breaking up in case it set a precedent on a continent where borders were set by colonial powers. But despite the fact that it does not officially exist as a country, Somaliland is attracting growing interest from different parts of the world. The number of foreign flags flying in the capital, Hargeisa, is increasing as more countries open consulates or representative offices. These include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Turkey, the UK, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Taiwan, which sees itself as Somaliland’s “brother” as both share an unrecognised status.