Breakaway state Somaliland has elected a former rebel commander as its new president

Image: Quartz/Mustafa Saeed
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The self-declared state of Somaliland has elected a former air force pilot and rebel commander as its third president since breaking away from Somalia in 1991. Somaliland’s election commission declared Musa Bihi Abdi of the ruling Kulmiye party the presidential winner, with a little more than 55% of the vote.

Somaliland, which is considered by the international community as a territory in Somalia, is known as a pocket of stability in the Horn of Africa. It’s held four peaceful elections, including presidential races in 2003 and 2010 as well as a parliamentary election in 2005. Despite more than two decades of diplomatic isolation, the territory of 4 million people has enjoyed stable economic growth, fueled by Somali diaspora returning to the region to invest, as well as investors from the Gulf.

Somaliland's ruling party candidate and newly elected president Musa Bihi Abdi greets his supporters during an election campaign in the city of Hargeisa in Somaliland November 9, 2017. Picture taken November 9, 2017.
Somaliland’s president elect Musa Bihi Abdi during an election campaign in Hargeisa, Somaliland.
Image: Reuters/Stringer

This most recent poll, on Nov 14, was meant to bolster the territory’s bid for recognition from the international community. The breakaway state has its own army, currency, and government. Election officials bragged that on election day Somaliland used Africa’s most advanced anti-fraud techniques, iris recognition technology. Local officials say that Somaliland’s unique government, a combination of indigenous governance embodied in a house of elders, and Western democratic institutions, is why it has enjoyed more stability than Somalia.

But the election was marred by protests in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, a well as the cities Burao and Erigavo, as the opposition party, Waddani, accused the election commission of vote rigging. At least two were killed in clashes with security. Telecommunications companies were also asked to block more than a dozen social media sites including Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter.