The election of Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as the President of the Federal Republic of Somalia yesterday is proof that Somalia has made a progress under the outgoing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The President-elect will come to the office on a strong mandate untainted by corruption. To understand challenges ahead of him one ought to figure out what the votes he won yesterday mean in the Somali politics riven by clannism. In the first round, Mohamed won 72 votes. Four candidates from the same clan family as the President-elect collectively won 60 votes. The President-elect was predominantly helped by votes from MPs and Senators of the Fifth Clan ( Somali minorities). In the second round, he won 184 votes. 112 votes that secured his victory were from pro-change MPs and Senators.
The public will judge the President-elect against his campaign promises on an efficient and corruption-free government. To honour campaign promises, the President-elect must avoid breathing a new life into what Fadumo Dayib, the former presidential candidate, calls the ” old clique”. The outgoing administration, with the help of Somalia’ partners and federal states, established the Upper House and institutionalised 30% quota for Somali women in the Upper and Lower Houses. It failed to help Somalia benefit from the goodwill of the international community exemplified by conferences such as the New Deal. The personal interest of the President and the national interest clashed. If the outgoing President had honoured the 2012 London Conference agreement to channel assistance for Somalia through the Joint Financial Management Board, Somalia would have been lauded for making significant progress in fighting corruption and would have secured more development assistance directly. The Somali President has the power to impoverish citizens if he blocks transparency measures put in place due to weak Somali political institutions.
The President-elect won more votes because of his record to put salaries for security forces and the army at the forefront of governance and his drive to fight government profligacy during his seven-month tenure as a Prime Minister. In a country recovering from state failure but still is facing formidable threats from extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab and ISIL, a government led by a capable Prime Minister can move the country forward. Periodic meetings of the President with the cabinet to review performance based on governance benchmarks will be an indication that the President is honouring campaign promises. If the working relationship between the executive and legislative branches of the government turns out to be positively complementary, federal states will have confidence in the ability of the federal government and its institutions to adjudicate inter and intra-state disputes such the Puntland-Galmudug clashes or constitutional crises of Galmudug and Southwest states.
The problems successive Somali federal governments have faced – in adequate attention paid to building the capacity of security forces and the unwillingness of the political leadership to rise above factional or clique politics – have been taken advantage of by hostile groups and anarchists.
The incoming administration must approach Somaliland-Somalia talks in a way that shows respect for what Somaliland has achieved. As the President-elect told a TV reporter from Hargeisa recently, “we will respect Somaliland”. Respect requires consistency. President Mohamud excluded Northern MPs from the Federal Government committee tasked with holding talks with Somaliland in UK and Turkey. President Mohamud revised this strategy and sent to Turkey negotiators with members from the North. Somaliland no longer views talks with the Somali Federal Government as viable.
In the same Kalsan TV interview the President-elect stated three pillars of his campaign: protecting public assets, making the judiciary a reliable institution, and helping the poor. The President-elect will continually be judged against those three benchmarks.