Conducting elections have always provided developing nations an opportunity to demonstrate their national capacity and political willingness to the world that, despite overwhelming technical and financial odds, a fair electoral process can be organised. It is particularly important when the nation organising it isn’t seen as a country by the international community. Most Somalilanders have always hoped that periodically holding elections will eventually change global perception about their lingering de facto status, and that the world would grow sympathetic towards their cause and possibly reward them with international diplomatic recognition. And regardless of the outcome, it is a rare opportunity to make global headlines that Western-style elections can be imported to the unlikeliest of places—a semi-arid, poverty-stricken, unrecognised post-conflict nation in the Horn of Africa. Somalilanders don’t simply see themselves as a laboratory to experiment if a foreign political model works out in their homeland or not, they have a genuine faith that it is the only path to achieving permanent statehood.
As Somaliland recently celebrated its 30-year anniversary since it made the consequential decision of secession; the hope remains alive. While there is growing realisation that the previous approach to international recognition has not worked, maintaining the electoral system still underpins the quest for permanent statehood. Deviating from this path can prove disastrous not only for the national aspirations for global acceptability into community of nations, but also its hard-earned image of looking and acting differently from the rest of Somalia. Peaceful elections and improved public services are particularly vital, in the case of an unrecognised state, as more people would increasingly question the nation’s political status if the living standards worsen or stagnate. For a world that proved indifferent to Somaliland’s quest for statehood, grabbing global headlines with our elections is the only tool we have, like a cell phone alarm bell that would remind the international community our cause every five to seven years.