After several rounds of voting by MPs, Somalia elected Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed as its new president Wednesday.
Mohamed secured 184 of the total votes cast, compared with the 97 votes obtained by the outgoing president during the second round of voting by MPs. A third round of voting was imminent as Mohamed still fell a little short of the two-third majority required, but incumbent President Sheikh Sharif Hassan conceded defeat, declaring, “History was made, we have taken this path to democracy, and now I want to congratulate Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.”
At least 19 other candidates took part in the first round of elections as Somalian MPs gathered to elect a president.
Elections in Somalia follow a unique system that relies on the votes of clan heads and community representatives instead of a general election determined by a national vote. The community representatives choose the members of parliament and the elected MPs vote in the president.
The voting was held at a hangar in the Mogadishu airport complex in the capital, after the authorities moved the venue from a police academy because of security concerns.
As part of security measures, the authorities also imposed a no-fly zone on the area around the airport with the rest of Mogadishu placed under curfew.
A Positive Pick
Mohamed’s election has been welcomed around Somalia with widespread celebration. The 54-year-old Mohamed is a well-respected rights campaigner with a strong reputation as a nationalist. He is also opposed to foreign meddling in Somalia’s affairs.
Mohamed has dual Somali-American nationality and is a professor and a graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo.
Mohamed earned the nickname “Farmajo,” which in Italian means “cheese,” because of his love for cheese during his childhood.
Mohamed briefly served as prime minister under the outgoing President Hassan before resigning due to a disagreement between the two, reports the BBC.
Once the archetypal example of a failed state, Somalia is making progress at rebuilding its institutions of government, which were seriously weakened after years of religious and tribal conflicts and the widespread lawlessness that divided the country into several strongholds controlled by militias.
As a result, Somalia has not had an effective central government since the fall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991; Somalia’s last democratic elections were held in 1969.
A 20,000-strong African Union force continues to be stationed in the country to support the recognized government and keep out the terrorist group Al-Shabab.