Former Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was elected president of the semi-autonomous Puntland region in a vote by lawmakers, narrowly defeating the incumbent who conceded defeat.
Ali beat Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamud by a single ballot in the third round, according to the vote-counting ceremony broadcast on state television. Members of parliament were chosen by clan elders last month.
“I am congratulating those of you who voted for me and those who voted against me,” Ali said after the announcement of his victory for a five-year term. “Rest assured that I will deal with you equally.”
Puntland, which declared autonomy in 1988, severed ties with the government in Somalia in August after accusing it of failing to distribute power and share resources including foreign aid with the region. Mohamud, who had been in office since 2009, led a process to adopt a new constitution in April 2012 and spearheaded a strategy to enlist youth groups and local communities to combat al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The region has still faced attacks by the al-Shabaab group, including a suicide car bombing at a market in the port city of Bossaso last month that killed seven people and injured 37 others. A tropical cyclone in the semi-arid region killed at least 300 people in November and devastated herds of live stock and leveled homes along the Indian Ocean coast.
“This was a fair election and I am conceding that I was defeated,” Mohamud said.
Puntland is home to the Dharoor oil block, where Vancouver-based Africa Oil Corp. (AOI) in 2012 carried out the first drilling in the region in at least 20 years. Exploration at two wells failed to find commercial crude and the company plans to conduct seismic studies and drill a well in the Dharoor and Nugaal blocks by October 2015, according to its website.
The region of about 3.4 million people in Somalia’s northeast relies on livestock trading for about 80 percent of its foreign exchange earnings. Illegal fishing in Puntland’s waters along the 1,300-kilometer (808-mile) coastline, where piracy is also rampant, has cost the economy, according to the government.
Puntland’s 66-member parliament was sworn in on Jan. 1 and Said Hassan Shire was chosen as speaker, Garowe Online reported on Jan. 5. Election observers for today’s vote included the United Nations envoy for Somalia, Nicholas Kay.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has urged all parties to recognize the results of the election and try to ensure a peaceful atmosphere, according to a statement e-mailed from the country’s capital, Mogadishu, yesterday.