Somaliland election is first to use Iris-Recognition technology

Somaliland election is first to use Iris-Recognition technology


For the sixth consecutive time since 2003, Somaliland’s citizens participated in multiparty and largely peaceful elections. The voting was certified as free and fair by 60 international observers, and the results were accepted by all three parties who entered candidates.

Just as notably, in a world first, the November 2017 elections employed pioneering iris-recognition technology to register and identify voters. Somaliland has 704,000 registered voters out of a population of about 3.5 million.

Biometric iris recognition uses pattern recognition techniques based on high-resolution images of the irises of the eyes. Because of its low margin of error and speed, iris recognition is now one of the most trusted ways of confirming the identity of a person.

There were three candidates for president. The winning candidate, Muse Bihi Abdi, is a former military officer who trained in Russia in the late 1970s.

The three were competing to succeed Ahmed Silanyo, who was stepping down after one, albeit extended, term. He was due to leave power in 2015 at the end of his five-year term, but Somaliland’s Parliament extended it by two years so that he could see the nation through a drought.

Somaliland, a former British colony, broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991. The territory has run its own affairs since but has never been recognized as an independent country. Observers from 24 countries monitored the election, despite Somaliland’s lack of international recognition.

For the first time, candidates took part in live television debates. The first one was organized by a youth group, Inspire, which said the debate drew more than 2 million reactions on Twitter alone.