HARGEISA, 08 Oct 2007 (Reuters)– Electoral officials and political leaders in the breakaway Somali republic of Somaliland have decided to postpone forthcoming elections to allow for voter registration to be completed.

Local government and presidential polls for the region bordering Ethiopia had been scheduled for December 2007 and April 2008, but have been postponed to July 1 and Aug 31, 2008, respectively.

“We have been demanding that registration of voters is a prerogative for holding fair, democratic and free elections,” Feisal Ali Warabe, chairman of the opposition Justice and Welfare Party, said on Monday, praising the decision. Somaliland broke away from the rest of Somalia in 1991 when warlords in Mogadishu overthrew the dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Since then, it has been relatively more peaceful. Somaliland permits only three political parties by law. In July, the government arrested three politicians who tried to form another opposition party.

The ruling on the polls was taken by the three approved parties and Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission.