Somalia: Lawmakers elect president who left in 2017

Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has retaken the reins of Somalia’s government after he failed to push for re-election in 2017, defeating incumbent President Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed on Sunday in a contest decided by lawmakers in a third round of votes.

Mohamud, 66, won the vote in the capital Mogadishu amid tight security to prevent extremist attacks. He previously ruled from 2012 to 2017.

“Victory belongs to the Somali people, and this is the beginning of the era of unity, Somalia’s democracy and the beginning of the fight against corruption,” Mohamud said after winning.

He added that he has a “huge task ahead” after regaining power.

A total of 36 candidates participated in the first electoral round, four of whom advanced to the next round. After none of the candidates obtained at least two-thirds of the 328 ballots, the vote advanced to a third round where only a simple majority was required to choose the winner.

Members of both houses of Congress elected the president in a secret ballot held inside a tent in an airport hangar inside the Halane military camp, which is protected by African Union peacekeepers.

Mohamud’s election ended a delayed electoral process that had fueled political tensions and security concerns, after President Mohamed’s term expired in February 2021 without a designated successor.

Mohamed and Mohamud sat side by side on Sunday, calmly watching the vote count. Celebratory shots were heard in parts of Mogadishu after it became clear that Mohamud had defeated the man who replaced him.

Mohamed conceded defeat and Mohamud was immediately sworn in.

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Mohamud is the leader of the Peace and Development Party, which holds the majority of seats in both houses of Congress. He is also well known for his work as a civic leader and promoter of education, including being one of the founders of SIMAD University in Mogadishu.

Mohamed’s government faced a May 17 deadline to hold a vote or risk losing funding from international allies.

Mohamed — nicknamed Farmaajo because of his taste for Italian cheese — said on Twitter as votes were cast that it had been “a great honor to rule” Somalia.

For Mohamed and his supporters, Sunday’s defeat is disappointing after he came to power in 2017 as a symbol of a Somali diaspora eager to see the country prosper after years of unrest. Mohamed leaves Somalia even more volatile than he found it, with a suspected split in the security services and the constant threat of attacks from the extremist group Al Shabab.

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