Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Somaliland has blocked social media to prevent the spread of rumours as the counting of votes begins to decide the region’s fifth president, AP reports.

Results are expected by Friday after the polls closed on Monday with the ruling party facing strong opposition.

Tight security was observed as more than 700,000 registered voters turned out at 1,600 polling stations across Somaliland.

In a first for Africa, these elections employed the use of iris-scan biometric technology to prevent anyone from voting more than once, said Somaliland’s electoral officials.

Three candidates are running for president after incumbent president Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud stepped down following the controversial extension of his five-year term by two-and-a-half years because of a shortage of funds and a drought.

The ruling Kulmiye party’s candidate Musa Bihi Abdi and his main challenger Abdirahman Irro from the opposition Wadani party are slight favourites over Feisal Ali Warabe, a veteran politician from the opposition party UCID.

Sixty international observers from 27 countries, funded by the British, monitored the vote.

Somaliland declared its unilateral independence from Somalia in 1991, a move not recognised regionally or internationally by a single state.

The region has proved to be a haven of relative tranquillity in north-western Somalia and voters are hoping that this election will help them win international recognition.

- African News Agency (ANA)