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Somali parliament elects new president in second round

Somalia's parliament has elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the country's new president, unseating incumbent Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The election was the final stage in the UN-backed peace plan for the war-torn nation.

Mohamud, who is seen as a moderate, garnered 190 votes compared to Ahmed's 79 on Monday, decisively winning the second round presidential run-off to lead Somalia's first permanent government after 22 years of war.

The 56-year-old activist who has worked in non-governmental community development and as a former university dean is a relative unknown to the international community. He takes over the reigns of power from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government, whose eight-year mandate expired on August 20.

Mohamud's victory came as a surprise, with incumbent Ahmed originally tipped as the favorite to win the poll.

The presidential contest originally had 25 contenders, with no candidate proving capable of mustering the two-thirds majority needed to win outright in Sunday's first round vote. Ahmed garnered 64 votes in the first round against Mohamud's 60.

The United Nations had accused Ahmed of corruption during his four year term. In a July report, the UN said that under his presidency, "systematic embezzlement, pure and simple misappropriation of funds and theft of public money have become government systems."

Restoring stability

Mohamud campaigned on a platform to fight radicalization and restore law and order in the Horn of Africa. The Somali government is currently fighting an insurgency led by the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, which has alleged ties to al Qaeda.#video#

The capital Mogadishu is undergoing housing reconstruction after a decline in urban warfare, but Al-Shabab still controls swathes of central and southern Somalia and has launched terrorist attacks in neighboring nations such as Kenya.

The African Union - under the auspices of the UN - has deployed thousands of troops in Somalia to combat the Al-Shabab, with the mission expected to reach a full-strength of 17,000 soldiers.

Somalia has had no fully functioning central government since former president Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, sparking two decades of intermittent civil war.

slk/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)