MOGADISHU, Somalia : When the presidential election results were announced, the Somali capital Mogadishu went wild, with gunshots heard in and around the city celebrating the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the new president, replacing outgoing President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo.
The election was tense as 36 presidential candidates contested earlier stages of the election but all were eliminated except the incumbent president and his predecessor Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who won the presidency with 214 out of 327 votes in the third round of the election, defeating Farmajo, who received 110 votes.
Somali people were not directly involved in voting as the election was undertaken by lawmakers from both sides of the parliament.
The outgoing president conceded that he has lost the election congratulating the winner on the spot, while Mohamud thanked Farmajo for his benevolent concessions and for handing the power to him peacefully.
“I congratulate the president-elect, my brother, H.E @HassanSMohamud on his election as our nation’s 10th president. I urge all my fellow citizens to support & pray for his success. I would like to express my appreciation to everyone who contributed to smooth & peaceful elections,” Farmajo said on Twitter after the vote.
Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister, congratulated Mohamud, saying: “I look forward to working closely with you on common bilateral and regional interests.”
Challenges, partnerships ahead
Newly elected President Mohamud inherited a much divided and polarized Somalia after one year and half of election disputes due to the prolonged delayed election process, prolonged drought that threatens millions of Somalis in the country, and insecurity.
Rashid Abdi, a Horn of Africa analyst based in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, believes that Mohamud will be a better president for Somalia than his predecessor.
He said the outcome of Somalia’s presidential election sends a powerful regional message on how to transfer power from a democratically elected president to another smoothly.
“This shows Somalis are becoming more politically mature but there are challenges ahead, including dealing with insecurity and (al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization) al-Shabaab and a much politicized armed forces of the country,” Abdi told Anadolu Agency in an interview over the phone.
He said Mohamud should devote himself to uniting the federal member states’ leaders, adding: “As you have seen, the regional leaders like Said Deni and Ahmed Madobe were pivotal to his election, so he should work with the regional leaders.”
Somalia never elected a former president to the highest office and has not had a one-man, one-vote election for nearly half a century.
Creating jobs for the country’s youth populations should be among the top priorities for the incoming president, Daniel Furnad, the associate director of a consulting company, Farsight Africa Group, told Anadolu Agency.
“The Al Shabaab (terror group), attracting federal member states, creating jobs for youth, finding an energy development partner who can be trusted, fighting corruption, and writing a new constitution that provides for universal suffrage elections are among the main issues that the next president should deal with,” Furnad told Anadolu Agency.
He said Somalia’s legislature has chosen someone familiar to lead Somalia for the next four years, adding that “this unprecedented move” signals a desire for some stability and experience in the executive chair.
According to Furnad, as Mohamud comes from the NGO world, the international partners such as the UN, World Bank, and IMF are also comfortable with him.
“The dynamics in the immediate neighborhood may change though,” he added, noting that it is also likely that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will be on equal footing as development partners, at least initially.
“Turkiye is likely to continue as a strong development and security contributor as the Turkish government’s engagement with Somalia has spanned several administrations already,” he said.
Mohamud is likely to make some unifying gestures, as the nation’s election delay has led to much animosity among Somalia’s political leaders and many will want Mohamud’s government to quickly reveal the details around thousands of Somali soldiers training in Eritrea, Furnad also noted.
Sakariye Cismaan, a Mogadishu-based political analyst, said Somalia would need to engage in genuine talks with Somaliland and commence these talks as soon as possible.
“If the country is to genuinely go to a one-man, one-vote elections in four years, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud would need to invest in the time and resources needed to make that lofty goal a reality and needs to work on that now,” he told Anadolu Agency.
He said the incoming president is known as a tolerant and inclusive leader who will welcome and work with supporters and the opposition alike and as a result, the political instability we have witnessed in the past five years will hopefully come to an end.
“As his slogan indicated, President Mohamud will be a partner to the world. he will not limit himself to small alliances and create enemies where none is needed.
“The Horn of Africa has an elder statesman, a calming head, and a caring leader. The Horn is in good hands” he added.
– Public reaction
Mohamed Abdinur, a businessman in Mogadishu, said that although he is not satisfied with this election and how it was conducted, he hopes that the next leader will unite the people of Somalia, heal the wounds, and use a win-win strategy in foreign policy.
“I am happy to see that the incoming president and the outgoing president are sitting next to each after the election.
“I was holding my tears back as I saw that because it shows that Somalis have much potential towards complete democracy,” Dahabo Hassan, a Mogadishu resident, told Anadolu Agency after the election.
She said that holding a “successful” presidential election shows that Somalia’s longstanding political standoff has finally come to an end and every Somali should be happy about the outcome of the election.— AA