Who will win Somalia’s upcoming presidential election?

Somalia will hold a presidential election on 8 February 2021, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s term in office ends.

Top contenders include the president, former presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who might run as a joint ticket and Wadajir Party Leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame.

Given that the election is less than three months away, it is time to speculate on who will be the Horn of African country’s next leader.

In the following analysis, we will discuss each of the main presidential candidates’ chances as well as the challenges facing them.

The Key to Success

1- The clan opportunity/advantage: You have to be from either the Hawiye or Darod clans. The calculation of many is that the next president will be from the Hawiye, given that President Farmajo is from the Darod clan. That is why the victor in the next election might be from Hawiye.

2- Must have the requisite leadership potential: You must inspire hope in the public that you can bring about change and address the present challenges. The key to this is for the candidate to possess knowledge, experience, capability, credibility and eloquence.

Twenty years ago during the Arta peace process, politicians from the Siad Barre regime became popular. Because the various rebel fronts have so miserably failed in their attempts to provide leadership to the country, politicians from the Siad regime had more appeal at the time. The competition was between three former ministers of the Siad Barre regime, namely: Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, Abdullahi Ahmed Adow and late Dr Ali Khalif Galayr.

The transitional government that came out of Arta was brought to its knees by the warlords, and in the next Mbgathi peace process in Kenya, the warlords were dominant in the process. Abdullahi Yusuf, who was the most powerful of the warlords at the time, became president and the rest of the warlords like Muse Sudi Yalahow, Mohamed Kanyare Afrah, Hussien Mohamed Farah Aidid, Osman Hassan Ali Ato, Omar Finish, Botan Isse Alin, Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade, Mohamed Nur Shati Gudud became ministers in the government that was formed in Mbagathi.

The Islamic Courts Union provided the strongest opposition to that government, and suddenly the Islamists become more popular and more appealing to the public. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the leader of the Islamic Courts Union, became president next. He was succeeded by Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was being backed by Islamist groups.

After the disillusionment with the Islamists, Farmajo and his supporters took advantage, using the patriotic card and nationalist slogans.

Farmajo heavily campaigned on patriotism, with Ethiopia being his straw man. That card’s appeal has now fizzled out.

Political parties in the country have since been Farmajo’s main opponent, especially the Wadajir Party lead by Abdirahman Abdishakur.

The Tribalists, the Islamists, and the Nationalists have all fallen out of favour in the hands of the warlords, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Mohamed Farmajo.

Now, people are hungry for civility, decency and democracy. What the country needs now is a leader who can inspire hope, a leader with vision and principled politics that can overcome the considerable challenges facing us, as well as any geopolitical ambitions that may come from either our neighbours or other parts of the world.

The new leader must also possess character traits that are missing in the incumbent president. For instance, Farmajo’s campaign slogan was about his distance from Ethiopia, his intent to expel Gabre from the country and fight corruption, that he was an honest patriot. These were the points of criticism his predecessor was facing.

Now, some of Farmajo’s shortcomings are about character and so many Somalis believe that he isn’t fit for the job. He lacks vision and understanding. He is also not very eloquent. True or not, there is also a perception that he won too easily through secrecy and deception.

His successor must have the traits Farmajo is believed to lack. People are tired of empty slogans and fake politics. The country’s next leader must be a principled politician, someone whose positions and policies are consistent and clear. Someone who can articulate the challenges and obstacles that Somalia faces.