HASSAN: How 2022 polls, clan politics and one-term jinx are playing out in federal state elections


The much-anticipated Puntland State Presidential election finally took place on Tuesday, electing former Somalia Planning minister Saciid Abdullahi Deni to replace Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas as President of Somalia’s oldest federal state.

There are five federal states namely Puntland, Galmudug, HirShabele, South West and Jubaland, which are like county governments in Kenya. However, they are governed by presidents unlike in Kenya where governors lead counties.

As is the norm with Somalia’s presidential election history, the incumbent, Abdiweli, failed to retain his seat, loosing in the first round of voting. He only managed eight votes out of a possible 66 from the region’s lawmakers.



Current Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo seems to know this fact, no wonder his recent desperate move to usurp power in South West State where he installed his man to help him beat this mysterious one-term presidency jinx.

President-elect Deni of Puntland won in the third round with 35 votes to beat his closest challenger, Gen Asad Osman Abdullahi, former Puntland head of Intelligence, who got 31 votes.

Deni served in the last Somalia government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and also took part and lost in the last Somalia presidential election in February 2017, which Farmaajo won. This might not the best news for President Farmaajo because it means the Puntland president-elect is aligned to a rival political party.

The Puntland election, although peaceful was not short of bribery claims as happened in South West State, with reliable reports indicating millions of dollars exchanged hands in a bid by candidates to outwit the other in a frenzy-spending spree.

In such scenarios naturally, the one with the deepest pocket hits the jackpot.



It is sad that no election in Somalia goes without bribery claims. This undermines polls credibility and spells doom for genuine contenders with no cash irrespective of their development track records. It’s also a pity seeing millions paid in bribes in one of the world’s poorest countries, with the highest illiteracy and child mortality rates.

Politics in Somalia is always controlled by clan affiliations and economic power. With the bigger clans automatically winning the presidency because lawmakers and not the public elect the President. This gives room to corruption and vote manipulation.

Looking back at the last five presidential elections in Puntland since the formation of the State in 1998, the Presidency has simultaneously rotated undemocratically amongst candidates from the main Mahamuud Saleeban sub sub-clan of the majority Majeerten sub-clan of the Darood clan in Puntland.

Power sharing is also based on a 4.5 clan system. This was agreed upon years back during a reconciliation conference in Kenya to appease warring clans of equal representation in a bid to get them to support State building efforts. The power sharing deal is legally acknowledged by the Federal Charter of Somalia and so is constitutional.

In the case of Puntland, the Mahamud Saleeban hegemony over power is more of a silent deal or a gentleman’s agreement and is not constitutional. Their Dhulbahante sub-clan causins have always automatically been given the Deputy Presidency slot. The Speaker of parliament is reserved for the Warsangali sub-clan. The above power sharing agreement is somehow respected and adhered to in Puntland’s Presidential elections.



Deni hails from the Osman Mahamud branch of the Mahamud Saleeban sub-sub clan. His predecessor Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas is from the Omar Mahamud branch of the same Mahamud Saleeban sub-sub clan or the MS. Five years ago Abdiweli defeated Abdirahman Faroole from the Isse Mahamud, which is also from the same ruling elite branch, the MS.

This explains why three candidates from the Osman Mahamud branch garnered most votes in the first round and how the incumbent, in spite of his advantage, managed only eight votes. This is because it is their turn to win the presidency. Talk of a smart voter rigging system.

The Mahamud Saleeban hegemony in Puntland is, therefore, the determinant factor when it comes to the presidential election. Come the next election in five years, it will be the turn of the Isse Mahamud to take over.

What I don’t understand is why candidates from other sub-clans chest thump and even waste their money taking part in an already determined election. Perhaps it was also agreed that everyone must take part.

This could be the main reason why presidential election disputes in Puntland are unheard of because each powerful sub-clan of the Mahamud Saleeban know their turn in taking power. Talk of a smart way of avoiding conflicts, the Somali style.



Such agreement only exists in Puntland. In the other federal states, it’s an open field where intimidation, vote rigging and corruption and sometimes violence is the order of the day.

By the end of the year, elections must have taken place in all the five Federal States in preparation for the national Somalia presidential election in 2020, where lawmakers from the five federal states will elect the President.

So far, only two states have had their election and the next states expected to hold their polls are Jubaland, HirShabele and Galmudug.

The Soomal column will be here to bring you unrivalled, fair analysis of the happenings in Somalia as they unfold.