MOGADISHU: Muse Bihi from the ruling Kulmiye party was on today declared the winner of last week's presidential poll in the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland, election officials said.
Bihi, 69, won with 55 percent of the vote, beating Abdirahman Iro of the main opposition Waddani party, who received 41 percent. Faysal Ali Warabe, who previously ran and lost in 2010, came third with four percent.
"The tallying process of the election was concluded and Kulmiye party candidate Muse Bihi Abdi... won the election and will be the president," said election commission chairman Abdikadir Iman Warsame.
The northern territory, which declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991, hopes the successful conclusion of its third presidential election will bolster its democratic credentials and strengthen the case for independence from its troubled neighbour.
Bihi, a retired air force officer and former interior minister, is a well-known figure in Somaliland and has chaired the Kulmiye party (meaning Peace, Unity and Development) since 2010. He will succeed as president Ahmed Mohamud Silaanyo, who did not seek re-election.
Elections are meant to be held every five years, but the poll was delayed for two years due to drought and technical issues.
Somaliland's history of peaceful, credible elections and democratic transition sets it apart from anarchic southern Somalia.
Somalia -- which is wracked with fighting between African Union-backed Somali forces and the Al Qaeda aligned Shabaab militants -- held an election in February that saw a president chosen via a limited electoral process in which handpicked clan elders selected delegates who were allowed to vote.
However Somaliland drew criticism for imposing a blackout on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook after voting closed on November 14, to prevent interference from outside the borders of the semi-autonomous state and speculation over the outcome.
Iro had also questioned the conduct of this month's election, claiming harassment and fraud, including the participation of underage voters.
Somaliland, a former British protectorate, won independence in 1960 but days later joined with Somalia.
In 1991, after years of bitter war with the government in Mogadishu, it declared independence from the rest of the country, and has long hoped for international recognition.