Voters began casting ballots Thursday to choose a legislative assembly for breakaway Somaliland in the first multiparty parliamentary elections since the region separated from Somalia more than a decade ago. The region's three political parties have fielded 246 candidates to compete for seats in the 82-member legislature. Somaliland has had a parliament since 1991, but until now lawmakers have been chosen by their clans through a process of consultation rather than voting. Somaliland is a former British colony, which in 1960 merged with the Italian colony of Somalia to form the independent republic of Somalia.
But it set up its own administration after breaking away from the rest of Somalia when the Horn of Africa country descended into anarchy in the early 1990s. Clan-based fighting swept the center and south of Somalia following the 1991 ouster of longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, reports the AP. I.L.