Hassan Sheikh defeats Farmajo in Somalia's titanic presidential race

Somalia's newly elected president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, right, holds hands with incumbent president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, left after winning the elections in Mogadishu, Somalia May 16, 2022 [Feisal Omar/ Reuters]

MOGADISHU, Somalia - After a long and unprecedented wait, Somalia will have a new president, following an epic battle which saw former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud capture the seat from the incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed better known as Farmajo.

Sunday's late-night results were after all expected following relentless resilience from members of the opposition who ganged against Farmajo, whose tenure was characterized by massive human rights violations, arbitrary detentions and executions, triggering protests from thousands of critics.

But for the results to favour a spirited opposition, it took legislators three rounds of voting to determine the outright winner. All 36 candidates invested massively in all campaign platforms including defending their agenda before citizens and even on social media platforms.

During the first round, Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni, a fierce critic of Farmajo, beat all candidates after garnering 65 votes. He was closely followed by Farmajo [59], Hassan Sheikh Mohamud [52], and former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire [47].

Another former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed scored 39 votes contrary to the expectations of his supporters while opposition leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame managed only 15. Abdulkadir Osoble scored 12 while Addow Ali Gees managed 8 of the 328 MPs who voted.

The scenario slightly changed in the second round of voting after Hassan Sheikh Mohamud scored 110 votes to Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo's 83 votes.
Said Abdullahi Deni scooped 68 while Hassan Ali Khaire managed 63, pushing the race to the third round where a simple majority between two frontrunners was to determine the winner.

In the third round, opposition bigwigs led by Said Abdullahi Deni and Hassan Ali Khaire, a former PM who fell out with Farmajo, ganged up to Mohamud's advantage, sealing a historic victory. Hassan Sheikh becomes the first Somalia president to be re-elected having served from 2012-to 2017.

The third round saw Hassan Sheikh Mohamud score 214 votes to Farmajo's 110 votes, sending Mogadishu into a celebratory mood. Farmajo's term expired last year in February but has been in office after stakeholders failed to steer elections in time.

Before clinching victory in the election, Hassan Sheikh took to his Facebook to rally lawmakers to consider supporting him in the third round. He said: "Please vote for me so that we can complete the journey of the process of building our nation together. Our country needs an inclusive government."

Similarly, Farmajo also asked lawmakers to consider him for the second term, noting that it will enable him "to promote the continuity of change in our Republic for the next years and fulfil my vision for our beloved motherland".

With Somalia walking up on Monday morning by starting to usher in a new administration, the outcome was expected given Farmajo's style of leadership which had even attracted criticism from his own Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

In a previous post, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who has been consistent with his criticism against Farmajo, maintained that should he get elected, he will ensure political freedoms are adhered to in the country. Under Farmajo's administration, Villa Somalia has often been accused of using security forces to muzzle freedoms of speech and association.

"Restricting, shrinking and or closing the freedom and the political spaces incorporated with a fear among our people was part and parcel of the current regimes political," he said in a previous post while condemning death threats directed at Hodan Ali, a political and security pundit.

Mohamud inherits a deeply divided country that is struggling with an economic downturn, Al-Shabaab threat, drought, the resurgence of clan militia, and weakened foreign policy. Despite his defeat to Farmajo in 2017, he reinvented himself by defending human rights in Somalia.

The result effectively ends the electioneering period which was marred with endless political squabbles. The main hero of the process is Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who stood firm to ensure the process was credible despite resistance from Villa Somalia.


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