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How exactly did Farmajo become president in 2017?

Sunday, July 25, 2021
By Ahmed Adan Sooldaad

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed waves to supporters after winning the election in Mogadishu in 2017 [Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP]

It is quite a simple rule for you to win an election. It would be best if you garnered two-thirds of the first round or a simple majority of the last round, which would propel you to the highest seat of the land. In the 2017 first round, Farmajo got 73 votes, and President Hassan got 88 votes, respectively. President Farmajo got 184 votes in the second round, and President Hassan managed to get 97 votes. The same trend has happened in the previous election/selection.

Most analysts factor out three crucial elements that propelled Farmajo to win the 2017 election--swing voters (25% of the vote in the first round that voted nine other candidates), newcomer factor against the incumbent and what we call the "Wa-Shamsi" scenario - rough meaning, to mob against one.

Let me break from this school of thought to a different way of thinking.

The more you observe and study Farmajo's doctrine, you will understand he was not an accidental president as it was in Somalia's elections. The more the opposition believes that narrative, the more likely to misjudge his determination and cunning; hence, the chances he will triumph again in the 2021 election is exceptionally high.

Yes, he had a plan and a broader strategy to win that was unique of its kind in Somali politics, a surprise to other presidential aspirants and a shock to the political class/elite. Other candidates fall into what I call "three-factor traps." Of course, corruption, intimidation, vote paying - external factors and tribal coalitions are the main deciding factors in Somali politics. Volumes have already been written on these factors, but I want to present a new way of looking into winning.

He believed himself—it is said that if you want to rule, you first must believe yourself. Farmajo's short-lived Premier was the calling that made him believe he can be the president.

Nature of the resentment—Farmajo understood the nature of the resentment, which was Ethiopia's influence and Gabre's power of micromanaging elections. He used that sentiment in his favour and presented himself as the only candidate who will take down to break away from Ethiopian shackles of influence. Obsessively, he perfected—that massage that struck a chord of Somali psychics. It was a vendetta against Somalia being humiliated at the hands of Ethiopia with their puppet masters.

A man of the people—you need more than a compelling message, and you also must sell the messenger. Farmajo achieved this fusion between himself and the masses—frequently playing up his humbleness as the son of a liberator, a modest upbringing in one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Mogadishu, Waberi. A man who challenged the status quo of Somali politics, and because of this, he paid a heavy price to lose his Premier.

He Built a team—you need a team you can trust that can amplify your message, a diverse skill set that can bring your vision to life. Before I present two entries that signified Farmajo's calculation, Let me tell you a story that encapsulates Farmajo's thinking.

On Leon Trotsky, a key figure in the Russian revolution that toppled the Tsar Rule of nearly three centuries in Russia. He became the Bolshevik Party leader, organiser, and intellectual thinker. Although the guiding spirit of the revolution was Lenin, Trotsky played a decisive role in the October Revolution of 1917 that brought Lenin into power. After Lenin died in January 1924, Trotsky was one of the most recognisable figures after Lenin that was expected to lead Russia. Still, he lost out to Joseph Stalin in the power struggle that followed Lenin's death.

In 2012, Fahad Yasin (Trotsky) was a crucial figure in the Hassan election (Lenin), and he was the most strategist figure in his campaign that was associated with his win. Nevertheless, he lost out to Farah Abduqadir (Stalin) in the power struggle with Hassan's camp. Farmajo recognised Fahad's talent and shrewdness, and he immediately recruited to his camp. One man's loss is another man's gain.

Another pivotal trajectory that cemented Farmajo's win was when he conscripted Hassan Kheyre to his camp—that move dismantled Hassan's camp and created chaos and confusion since he was the campaign manager and strategist of his re-election. They say, "the straw that broke the camel's back" Hassan Kheyre's switch was so significant that his switch was a decisive factor that sealed Hassan's fate while boosting Farmajo's chance to win.

It remains me William Lee Bergstrom story, commonly known as the "Suitcase Man," was a gambler and high roller known for placing the largest bet in casino gambling history in the early 1980s, amounting to $777,000 ($2.44 million present-day amount) at the Horseshoe Casino, which he won. Kheyre will record Somali history the man who derailed Hassan's chance of his re-election at the expense of being rewarded Premiership. He gambled; he won big.

Understanding is the beginning of wisdom - strangely enough, after four years of Farmajo rule, the opposition has not come to terms with understanding the game. They will be in the same situation there were before. Instead of doing their homework to study his doctrine and the strategic concept of his power, they pursued a strategy campaign of war and chaos. They have localised their political message that served extensively to his advantage.

Of course, politics is a dirty game, maybe violent or peaceful, to achieve its aims. However, as a presidential aspirant, one helpful rule of thumb is--you do not get your hands dirty. Instead, you franchise to other people to do dirty work. If it succeeds, you claim; if not, you distance yourself from the dirty.  

To sum up, Farmajo established his divine mission, tapping into people's sentiment and anger, crafted an image of humbleness, branded the liberator's identity coupled with a loyal circle of trusted friends and influential media houses that delivered him to victory in 2017. Perhaps, the 2021 election is just a confirmation of his re-election rather than a revelation—unless opposition figures came forth with a feasible strategy. 

Ahmed Adan Sooldaad

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