Who is likely to win Somalia’s Galmudug presidential election?

Taking cues from yesterday’s Galmudug assembly leadership election, won by Mohamed Nur Ga’al, it is now possible to predict the outcome of the presidential election of the state.

Ga’al was campaigning towards his victory for the past eight months. He was a member of the Galmudug reconciliation committee, and has since been working with the federal government, which spared no effort in bolstering him, spending half a million dollars on his election.

These advantages handed Ga’al a victory against Nasir Adan Osman, a virtually unknown young man who spent a total of three days campaigning for the election.

Ga’al was also aided by the fact that members of the Galmudug parliament were not ready to changes the power-sharing dynamics in the state. If the Murasade clan was to lose the position of the Speaker, it would have unbalanced the clan power sharing system in state.  And so if the opposition had fronted a well-known candidate from the Murasade clan, Ga’al would have likely lost the election.

In this context, his victory was not that impressive.

Political clout of Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’ah

The election of the first deputy speaker showed that Ahlu Sunnah wal Jama’ah, an armed Sufi Islam group which has 20 representatives in the state assembly, has the assured backing of 29 legislators, which makes up 30 per cent of the assembly.

Although the group’s favored candidate, Yusuf Dired, a brother in-law of the group’s overall leader Ma’alin Mohamud Sheikh Hassan, lost the race, its clout is nothing to scoff at. It might not be able to win a race on its own, but Ahlu Sunnah is certainly the kingmaker.

In the election of the second deputy Speaker, which was the most heated contest of the three that took place yesterday, the federal government-backed candidate lost. Fadumo Fande, who had the backing of both the opposition and Ahlu Sunnah, was elected second deputy Speaker. Fadumo Fande has been in the media for quite some time and has many supporters. Her victory was deserved.

The upcoming presidential election

There were only two contesters in each of yesterday’s elections, giving the voting legislators limited options.

In contrast, there are five contestants in the presidential election, led by three front runners from the Haji Saleban sub-clan. They are former Villa Somalia Chief of Staff Kamal Gutale, Former Interior Minister Abdirahman Odowa and former State Minister of Public Works Ahmed Qorqor.  Also in the race are former Interior State Minister Abdullahi Wehliye and Abdi Abdullahi Ahmed (Abdi Dhere).

Votes in the first round of the presidential election will be spread among the five candidates, making it unlikely there will be an outright winner.

In the second round, the candidate favored by Ahlu Sunnah, which has 29 votes, will have an advantage. The government’s favored candidate, Ahmed Qorqor, certainly does not enjoy the support of Ahlu Sunnah. The group will see him as a threat to its influence in Galmudug. So Qorqor will find himself crowded by two opposition candidates, and there will likely be no outright winner in the second round either.

If Ahmed Qorqor makes it to the final round, he will have to contend with an opponent backed by both Ahlu Sunnah and the opposition in a third round.

Who does Ahlu Sunnah support?

As stated above, Ahlu Sunnah will not support the government-backed candidate, and has an adversarial history with another candidate, Odawa.

When Odawa was leading efforts to form an administration for Galmudug in 2015, he sidelined Ahlu Sunnah and worked directly against the interests of the group. Further, during the presidency of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was at the time a close friend of Odawa, Ahlu Sunnah was involved in firefight in Dusomareb with a clan militia backed by the former president’s administration. Given this history, the group is unlikely to support Odawa.

This leaves Ahlu Sunnah with only one option, to support Kamal Gutale. Not only does Gutale have an amicable relationship with Ahlu Sunnah, but he also shares maternal relations with the group’s leader. Reliable sources have told Somali Affairs that Gutale is Ahlu Sunnah’s first choice for president, and he is the one with best chance of becoming the next Galmudug president.

Galmudug, beleaguered state with potential

Galmudug is a state that has produced presidents, prime ministers and the most prominent of opposition figures. It is a strategic state and is vital for the security of both Puntland and Hirshabelle states. It also holds strategic values for Somaliland as well as the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Galmudug also has crude oil deposits that are easy to exploit, and some of the most prominent Somali business figures also hail from the state. It is therefore unfortunate that it is also one of the most underdeveloped states in the country, continuously set aback by political and clan infighting. It is in need of real and competent leadership with both integrity and skill.

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