Somali lawmakers elected Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman speaker of parliament's lower house Monday after two rounds of voting in Mogadishu's heavily protected parliament building.
Abdirahman resigned as defense minister just last week to run for the speakership, securing 147 votes out of 265. He defeated Ibrahim Isak Yarow, former deputy minister of telecommunications, who received 118 votes.
Ten candidates competed for the post, which became vacant April 12 following the resignation of Mohamed Osman Jawari, a seasoned and longtime politician. He stepped down after a bitter dispute with the legislative branch of the government.
Jawari was accused of aligning himself with opposition lawmakers who were allegedly planning a no-confidence motion against the government of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire; however, MPs who support the prime minister brought a no-confidence motion against Jawari, which eventually forced him to step down after nearly a month of political turmoil.
Abdirahman, 61, is a former Somali ambassador to Turkey who is believed to have a close working relationship with Prime Minister Khaire. He will lead a parliament divided by the recent dispute.
The election of the speaker comes as the country faces serious security and humanitarian challenges. Leaders of African Union troop contributing countries have recently announced plans to stop reducing the number of peacekeepers in the country because Somali security forces are not ready to take over those responsibilities.
The country also faces serious humanitarian issues as hundreds of thousands have fled due to flooding and heavy rains in the south central regions in recent days. According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, 427,000 people have been affected by the ongoing bad weather, with 175,000 fleeing their homes. One of the worst hit areas has been the Hiran region, according to the government, which declared the situation a national disaster.
Hiran Governor Abdullahi Ahmed Maalin told VOA Somali that five people have died due to floods, including two children in the central town of Beledweyne in the past few days.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo flew to Beledweyne on Monday to tour the affected areas. Aid organizations have warned of a possible outbreak of diseases such as malaria and cholera.