people have voted overwhelmingly to support a new constitution
confirming independence from the rest of Somalia, according
to early returns from a referendum held on Thursday.
more than 80 percent of the votes counted are 'Yes'," referendum
official Khalil Ibrabhim Hawadleh told Reuters. Hawadleh,
who is also deputy mayor of the capital Hargeisa, was referring
to votes from the territory's most heavily populated region
-- Hargeisa and its surrounding areas.
and clan leaders urged people to endorse the new constitution
in Thursday's polling, which gave voters the choice of backing
or rejecting a new constitution that cements independence
a former British protectorate, split unilaterally from Somalia
10 years ago after a long independence struggle, taking advantage
of the chaos that followed the fall of Somali dictator Mohamed
years that followed, much of the rest of Somalia descended
into clan-based anarchy, while the people of Somaliland rebuilt
their country in peace.
independence has never been recognised by the international
community, something which rankles with many ordinary people
and with the government.
results for the whole territory are expected to be announced
later on Saturday, said Abdulqadir Jirde, deputy chairman
of the central commission of the referendum. The polling was
monitored by observers from the United States and South Africa.
is aimed in part at advancing Somaliland's international campaign
for recognition by demonstrating popular support for an independence
referendum has encountered some opposition, especially from
outside the territory.
clan leaders from all over Somalia elected a new transitional
national government and a president, Abdiqassim Salad Hassan,
after a lengthy meeting in neighbouring Djibouti.
government, which sits in the Somali capital Mogadishu, is
fiercely opposed to the idea of a referendum in Somaliland,
which it claims as part of Somalia. Hargeisa is a city of
110,000, but reliable figures for Somaliland's population
as a whole are not available due to the nomadic lifestyle
of local clans.
including Somaliland, is estimated to have a population of
between eight million and nine million.