One of Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions on Tuesday witnessed a peaceful transfer of power, following a hotly contested presidential election that ousted the incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas in the first round of voting.
Said Abdullahi Deni, who is likely to continue Puntland’s close cooperation with the United States, defeated his closest rival, Asad Osman Abdullahi. He was sworn in for a new five-year term.
Deni has taken a hardline against the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab and a rival splinter faction that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, said Matt Bryden, head of the Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research.
“He has campaigned as a reformist, promising to strengthen government institutions, fight corruption and stabilise the economy,” Bryden said.
A former Somali federal minister for planning, Demi won 35 votes out of the 66 lawmakers that voted, the speaker of Puntland’s parliament, Abdihakim Mohamed Ahmed, said.
He replaces the incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, who served a single term and was eliminated in a first round of voting.
Puntland, on the tip of the Horn of Africa, has an often tense relationship with the federal government of Somalia.
Six years ago, it was a hotbed of piracy, and hundreds of attacks cost the shipping industry billions of dollars.
But a combination of maritime patrols, stronger Somali security forces and better security protocols by mariners mean attacks are now rare.