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Somalia’s Puntland picks Said Deni as regional president

Businessman and politician Said Abdullahi Deni was elected president of the semi-autonomous state of Puntland in northern Somalia on Tuesday in a vote by regional lawmakers.

Puntland, like much of the rest of Somalia, has suffered from decades of clan warfare and, more recently, terror attacks by militants aligned with Al-Qaeda or Islamic State.

Deni, a former national government minister, will serve a five-year term as regional president after emerging first in a field of 21 candidates, including incumbent Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas, after three rounds of voting in a secret parliamentary ballot.

There were no female candidates and just one woman among the 66 MPs who elected the new president with a majority in the third round of balloting.

“I officially announce that Said Abdullahi Deni is the president for Puntland for the coming five years,” said Abdihakin Mohamed Ahmed, the speaker of the regional assembly after votes were counted.

The defeated candidates, including Gaas who was eliminated in the first round, congratulated Deni on his victory.

Addressing parliament afterwards, Deni said, “It is the start of a new era for me and I hope that the public will find the best in me to fulfil my duties.”

Security in Garowe, the regional capital, was tight Tuesday morning with roads closed, but no incidents were reported.

Under Somalia’s federal system, Puntland’s parliamentarians are chosen by clan elders and then vote for a regional president.

Puntland is one of six federal states in Somalia.

A similar regional election in South West State was controversially held last month after a prominent former jihadist vying for the presidency was arrested and taken to the capital Mogadishu.

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