Against all likely odds, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud emerged as victorious in Somalia’s presidential selection on 10 September 2012, held in Mogadishu’s Aden Adde airport.
The results from the first round of voting seemed to favor the controversial incumbent Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, as votes from 272 Members of Parliament stood as follows: Sh. Ahmed – 64 votes, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud – 60, Abdiweli Gaas – 30, Osobley – 27.
But in the second round, Mohamud benefitted from the withdrawal of candidates ex-PM Gaas and Osobley and managed to use some of their MP support to overcome Sh. Ahmed with a total of 190 votes to 79. The victory for Mohamud, a 56 year-old educator and civil activist, symbolizes what many hope is the start of a new era in Somalia.
New Era or Politics as Usual?
Somalis across the globe, diplomats, and others are gushing with enthusiasm at the prospect of a government led by any one other than the country’s infamous exes.
Ex-President Sh. Ahmed, ex-Parliament Speaker Sh. Hassan Aden, and ex-Prime Minister Abdiweli Gaas were responsible for overseeing a government that could not account for 7 out of every 10 dollars under its auspices.
Despite the untainted credentials of President Mohamud and new Parliament Speaker Mohamed Osman Jawaari, the Mohamud era already has begun in circumstances that mirror the marred politics of the recent past.
Al Jazeera correspondent Nazanine Moshiri reported that “bribery [was] going on on all sides” between presidential candidates and MPs, who were the sole voters in the election.
Other reports stated that the bribe price of MP votes reached as high as $50-60,000, though President Mohamud was not implicated specifically in these charges.
Ex-President Sh. Ahmed was one of the heaviest indulgers of crony campaigning. After using (and abusing) the Somali High Court to push through rejected MP candidates into parliament who would support him, he attempted to bury the hatchet and recruit support from his rival Sh. Aden during a meeting with supporters and MPs at at a swanky $11,700 event at the Plaza Hotel the day before the election.
No to Qabilism, Yes to Money Politics
Many Somalis also cheered what was perceived to be a victory over ‘qabilism,’ or clan-centered politics in the selection of Mohamud, who hails from the Abgaal sub-clan of the Hawiye clan.
However, individual interests and greed have driven the dysfunctionality of the Somali government as much–if not more–than clan-ism in recent years.
Somalia’s capital has been the site of a political body that is more attentive to the international community from which it receives its salaries than the communities it purportedly represents.
As a result of the exclusive tango between the international community and political elites in Mogadishu, the relationship between the Somali government and its constituencies outside the capital has suffered and continues to be broken.
Many communities outside of Mogadishu are disenchanted with national politics. (Think about it: how many presidential rallies occurred far outside the capital, in Beledweyne or Dhusamareb, for example?)
In the future, this could lead to the continued proliferation of mini-states that assume authority where the federal government has long been absent–a factor that would provide a ripe environment for qabilism.
These circumstances should not dampen the exuberance felt by many onlookers of Monday’s exhilarating selection–with moderators slowly unfolding and reading each individual ballot with precision and suspense.
But it does mean that President Mohamud must move from a generic platform that promises reforms across the board to specific achievable goals which he can achieve in collaboration with the parliament, general public, and international community.
Among the many issues that Mohamud must tackle include resolving the ongoing war with al-Shabaab, establishing a long-term local security force to replace AMISOM and other foreign troops, creating effective institutions to implement national services and contain corruption, and de-politicizing the clan rivalries that are obstacles to the country’s growth.
If all goes well, President Mohamud will let the rest of Somalia know that he is their President as well and provide more than the glimmer of hope accomplished by Sh. Ahmed.