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New Somali President Elected

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, leader of the Barod clan, one of the four major clans of Somalia, was elected president of Somalia, parliament speaker Shariff Hassan Shek Adan announced in Nairobi Sunday.

Yusuf, also leader of the autonomous Somali region of Puntland, obtained 189 votes in the runoff of the Horn of Africa nation's presidential poll. His rival, Abdullahi Ahmed Addou, former Somali ambassador to Washington and then finance minister, gained 79 votes, Adan said.

Five lawmakers of Somalia's 275-member Transitional National Assembly didn't vote in the runoff while two votes were declared vain.

Yusuf vowed to bring stability to his war-ravaged country while addressing the 275-member transitional parliament and regional foreign affairs ministers who observed the vote.

"I am pleased to have the honor of serving Somalis again. I am informing you tonight that I will do my best to reconcile Somalia and bring peace and stability to our country," he said.
"I promise you to construct a central government as soon as possible and urge the international community to stand by us in rebuilding Somalia," the newly-elected president said.

Yusuf, 71, has been tipped by diplomats, regional analysts to win the elections. Yusuf established the regional administration of Puntland in 1998 with a presidency and a single-chamber quasi legislature known as the Council of Elders. Political parties are banned.

One analyst who observed the election held here on Sunday in Kenyan capital Nairobi, said Yusuf's winning shows that clans are still major players in Somali politics.

"There are a lot of lobbying among the major clans in Somalia --clans influence determines the outcome of the election," Abdul Rahman Osman, a Somali scholar, told Xinhua at the voting site.

Maj. Gen. Muhammad Siad Barre, former leader of Somalia who was toppled in 1991, also came from Barod clan.

Lawmaker Ahmed Bhmbil thinks Yusuf's winning also means that Mogadishu needs new face.

"There are a lot of problems currently in Mogadishu. To end them means someone from outside Mogadishu to bring new blood of leadership in the region," Bhmbil told Xinhua.

Somali lawmakers started voting for president of Somalia on Sunday in Nairobi.

A total of 28 contestants including a woman competed for the presidency in what is widely seen as the culmination of a tortuous two-year peace process in Kenya, mediated by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Members of Somalia's Transitional National Assembly were sworn in in August in Nairobi, with each of Somalia's four major clans allocated 61 seats in the parliament, while an alliance of minority clans was awarded 31.

However, two presidential aspirants withdrew from the contest at the last minute, leaving 26 candidates to take an oath binding them to abide by whatever results from the voting.

Since a first ballot failed to give any candidate the two-thirds majority required for an outright victory, six top runners were qualified to go to the second round. However, the last three have decided to withdraw from the second round.

Yusuf Ahmed gained 147 votes in the second round of the race, while Ahmed Addou gained 83 votes. The other candidate Jama Barre, half-brother of Mohammed Siad Barre, gained only 38 votes.

Since the breakdown of the Somali central government in 1991, conflict and famine have killed hundreds of thousands of people, plunging the country into anarchy.

Under the auspices of IGAD, which groups Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and Somalia, Somali National Reconciliation Conference began in October 2002 in Kenya.

The presidential elections come after the election of the speaker of the transitional federal parliament of Somalia on Sept.15 and his two deputies on Sept. 22 and the inauguration of the transitional parliament on Aug. 29.

(Xinhua News Agency October 11, 2004)

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