The Somali President has been elected despite security threats posed by Al-Shabaab. On Wednesday evening, crowds cheered and celebrated the election of their new president. Read more about this historic and symbolic election in the war-torn country below.
Somali Presidential Election results:
Former prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, won with 184 votes, beating the incumbent president who received 97. The former President urged all Somalis to “support the new president and work with him and his government”.
The incumbent president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was widely expected to reach the final stages and even win the election. His campaign was surrounded by allegations of corruption, namely vote purchasing. Similarly, his time in office was not seen as the fresh start that many, especially in the West, believe Somalia desperately needs.
Abnormally for Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is a popular politician and takes a firm anti-corruption stance. His election has sparked celebration in the streets amongst the population who were forced to watch their new president be elected by a select group of politicians.
It is hoped that this election will lead the way to full democratic elections by 2020.
The novel way in which Somalia elects its president:
- In 2012 President Hassan Sheikh Mouhamud was elected by 135 elders
- A 2016 general election was postponed as securing polling stations across the country was perceived to be impossible
- The 2017 election process began with 14,000 elders and politicians choosing 275 MPs and 54 senators to make up the upper and lower houses of Parliament
- These MPs then elect the president in a series of votes.
- A candidate has to gain a two-thirds majority in the first round to prevent a second vote.
- The secondary vote drops the number of candidates to the top 3.
- A tertiary vote has the top two candidates of the second round and the winner requires a simple majority.
Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991 when the Siad Barre Regime fell. The Mogadishu-based government now in place is backed by the United Nations via the African Union force (Amisom) which made up of more than 22,000 troops, police and civilian staff.
As a damning condemnation of the state of Somalian politics, Transparency International marked Somalia out as the most corrupt state in the world in 2016. Allegations of corruption have plagued the election. Large investments have flowed into the country from Europe, the Middle East and the US with external powers having vested interests combatting militant Islam. Somali presidential hopefuls have been accused of using this aid to buy electoral college votes controlled by MPs.
Interestingly, the forced move to the airport may have helped reduce corruption as security was heightened. This could have ensured that candidates were not coerced into voting for specific, pre-determined candidates. Mobile telephones were also banned in the voting area which stopping MPs taking photos of their ballots as proof of their vote.
A way out of Decades of Strife:
Somalia has not had a democratic election since 1969, after which there was a coup, a dictatorship and a long civil war in which the country was ripped apart along clan divides by pirates and Islamist extremists.
Islamist extremism represents the biggest challenge to Somali stability. Al-Shabaab is a militant Islamist group allied to Al-Qaeda. They rose to power with promises of peace and security. They lost support, however, when they rejected Western food aid in 2011 in the wake of drought and famine. Al-Shabaab is now in direct conflict with the UN-backed Somali government and remains a potent threat to the nation’s security.
The UN-backed government forces are pushing them back and recapturing territory. This has led to a rise in optimism surrounding the country, with basic services such as garbage collection and street lighting returning to the Mogadishu.
Change for good:
A popular candidate, both domestically and internationally now leads Somalia. He is expected to secure the country against Al-Shabaab, tackle corruption and widespread famine. Only then can Somalia succeed in its plan for a general election by 2020.