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Vote counting to begin in Somaliland

Update: 2010-06-26 21:36:46

HARGEISA: Authorities were expected to begin counting votes Sunday in the breakaway state of Somaliland, a day after a peaceful presidential election, the electoral board said.

"Some of the ballot boxes were brought early this morning to the headquarters of the National Election Commission (NEC)," said a commission official who asked not to be named.

"We are verifying all the boxes and are waiting for all the remaining ones to arrive. We are urging people not to speculate on who is the winner before a final announcement from the commission," he said.

Official results are not due for another week but a winner is expected to emerge with partial results over the next few days.

President Dahir Riyale Kahin faces a stiff challenge from two opposition candidates: Ahmed Mohamed Silaanyo, whose Kulmiye party is the largest parliamentary bloc, and Faisal Ali Warabe of the Justice and Welfare party.

No violence or instances of suspected fraud were reported during the voting, which took place across the northern Somali territory on Saturday.

The borders had been closed and large security contingents deployed across the capital Hargeisa and other towns amid fears of attacks by the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab operating in neighbouring Somalia.

Somaliland, which is more tribally homogenous than the rest of Somalia, has been striving for international recognition since it broke away in 1991 and many voters saw the election as a fresh opportunity to demonstrate their aspiring state`s democratic credentials.

"I am delighted at the peaceful election process that took place. The world will undoubtedly understand that we are a responsible nation," Hargeisa resident Abdisalan Ahmed told AFP.

BDST: 1712 HRS, June 27, 2010

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