VOA Poll Shows Somalis Want Vote on Constitution

A Voice of America telephone survey in Somalia shows a majority of those polled want a national referendum on the draft constitution that will soon be considered by a select group of community elders.

Over the past three months, VOA’s Somali Service , using open source software from Google Ideas , has polled more than 3,000 Somalis about key provisions of the draft constitution and the kind of government they want.

The survey asked questions about citizenship, freedom of expression, the role of women, the powers of the states, and religious law.

A data analysis of the results, published on www.voanews.com , shows that those surveyed, men and women, young and old, are overwhelmingly in favor of a direct vote on the constitution.  Plans call for the document to be considered by a Constituent Assembly and eventually by Somalia’s new permanent parliament.

“Conducting a poll in a country like Somalia is an incredible challenge,” says VOA Africa Division Director Gwen Dillard.  “These results offer a rare insight into the opinions of ordinary people who want a voice in their future. The poll also gives Somalis an idea of what their countrymen and neighbors are thinking,” Dillard says.

The survey found 87% of those polled want Islamic law, or Sharia, to be the foundation of the country’s civil and criminal code.  Asked what kind of powers the central government should have, 83% said they want a strong central government.  Questioned about the proposed constitutional protection for freedom of expression, 68% said it should include freedom of the press and media.  More than three-quarters (78%) said they supported the proposed constitution.

The survey was conducted in three parts and polled Somalis around the country and in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

In addition to the poll, VOA’s Somali Service has published key segments of the proposed constitution on its website and every Sunday evening VOA’s Somali audience is invited to debate the issues on the radio call-in program, Constitution Square .

For more information about this release contact Kyle King at the VOA Public Relations office in Washington at (202) 203-4959 or write kking@voanews.com .  Visit our main English language website www.voanews.com for more about all of our programs, or visit the VOA Public Relations website at www.insidevoa.com.

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