San Francisco Chronicle

Former leader, rejected 5 years ago, voted back in

- By Omar Faruk Omar Faruk is an Associated Press writer.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A former Somali president voted out of power in 2017 has been returned to the nation’s top office after defeating the incumbent leader in a protracted contest decided by legislator­s in a third round of voting late Sunday.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who served as Somalia’s president between 2012 and 2017, won the contest in the capital, Mogadishu, amid a security lockdown imposed by authoritie­s to prevent deadly militant attacks.

The first round of voting was contested by 36 aspirants, four of whom proceeded to the second round. With no candidate winning at least twothirds of the 328 ballots, voting then went into a third round where a simple majority was enough to pick the winner.

Members of the upper and lower legislativ­e chambers picked the president in secret balloting inside a tent in an airport hangar within the Halane military camp, which is protected by African Union peacekeepe­rs. Mohamud’s election ended a long-delayed electoral process that had raised political tensions — and heightened insecurity concerns — after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s mandate expired in February 2021 without a successor in place.

Mohamed and Mohamud sat side-by-side Sunday, watching calmly as the ballots were counted. Celebrator­y gunfire rang out in parts of Mogadishu as it became clear that Mohamud had defeated the man who replaced him.

Mohamed conceded defeat, and Mohamud was immediatel­y sworn in.

The 66-year-old Mohamud is the leader of the Union for Peace and Developmen­t party, which commands a majority of seats in both legislativ­e chambers. He also is wellknown for his work as a civic leader and education promoter, including for his role as one of the founders of Mogadishu’s SIMAD University.

The Somali government under Mohamed faced a May 17 deadline to hold the vote or risk losing funding from internatio­nal partners.

Mohamed — who is also known as Farmaajo because of his appetite for Italian cheese — said on Twitter while voting was underway that it was “a great honor to lead” Somalia.

For Mohamed and his supporters, Sunday’s loss will be disappoint­ing after he rose to power in 2017 as a symbol of a Somali diaspora eager to see the country prosper after years of turmoil. Mohamed leaves behind a country even more volatile than he found it, with a reported rift in the security services and the constant drumbeat of alShabab attacks.

No sitting president has ever been elected to two consecutiv­e terms in this Horn of Africa nation, where rival clans fight intensely for political power. In winning the vote, however, Mohamud overcame the odds as no former president had ever launched a successful return to the office.

A member of the Hawiye clan, one of Somalia’s largest, Mohamud is regarded by some as a statesman with a conciliato­ry approach. Many hope Mohamud can unite the country after years of divisive clan tensions but also take firm charge of a federal government with little control beyond Mogadishu.

 ?? Farah Abdi Warsameh / Associated Press ?? Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left) beat incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.
Farah Abdi Warsameh / Associated Press Former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left) beat incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

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