The former Prime Minister of Somalia, Abdiwali Mohamed Ali Gaas, has become the president-elect of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland Somalia, in a hotly contested parliament vote. He will be the fifth person to hold the post.
Abdiwali Gaas, garnered 33 votes of the 66 votes cast, shattering incumbent Farole’s dream to become first re-elected leader in the region. Farole received 32 votes, with one vote being spoilt.
Speaking, whilst conceding defeat, Farole congratulated president elect: “This victory is proving our quest of democracy,” he declared.
“I hope Abdiwali to protect the interest of the Puntland that we fought for long,” he said.
Abdiwali Gaas thanked the outgoing president, saying “He [Farole] will be a clan elder from now on, and this is just the beginning of the reform.”
Despite the initial observation that Farole could win easily, thousands of Puntlanders have gathered in downtown Garoowe, Puntland’s capital, welcoming Gaas and chanting his name. Large throngs have also been gathering in Gaas’ birthplace, Galka’yo, which is the third largest city in Puntland.
“We are expected from the new president. We are happy that we conducted a peaceful election,” one of the crowd in Garoowe, Sharmarke Abdirashid Janle, told The Foreign Report.
Gaas said in his election campaigns that he feared the incompetent policies under Farole’s administration could lead the region in to a social and economic collapse. Gaas will be keen to make changes including economic reform in the region, as well as restoring relations with the Mogadishu government, which had been strained during Farole’s tenure.
Abdirahamn Aynte, the director of Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, Somalia’s first think tank, said: “His relation with the Somali president can make relations easier to restore.”
However, Aynte has played down any significant difference between Garoowe and Mogadishu. “Garoowe and Mogadishu are same, it’s their interest to restore relation,” he said.
Aynte added “Puntland people should be proud of what Farole has achieved for them.”
The Head of the United Nations assistance mission in Somalia (UNISOM), Nicholas Kay thanked those who took part in the election. “I applaud the Speaker and Members of Parliament for their efforts leading to the smooth process of today’s vote. I also appreciate the important role of the traditional leaders. I congratulate all the people of Puntland,” Kay said, speaking after the election result was announced.
Kay also reiterated the UN’s support for the Puntland elections, suggesting it may be a model for the rest of Somalia: “Puntland is leading the way on the development of a federal Somalia.”
The election will be concluded later today, after members of the parliament pick a new vice-president.
More to follow, including reaction from Abdiwali Gaas and Abdirahman Farole