- 8 January 2014
- From the section Africa
President: Abdiweli Mohamed Ali "Gas"
This US-trained economist beat the incumbent Abdirahman Muhammad Mahmud "Farole" by one vote in parliament to become the president of the Puntland autonomous region in January 2014.
Mr Farole had presided over a dramatic decline in piracy during his five-year term, although this was largely achieved by firmer international policing of Somali waters rather than any initiative by Puntland itself. His re-election campaign focused on taking a more assertive stance towards the central Somali government.
Mr Gas, who was born in north-central Somalia in 1965 and holds US and Somali joint citizenship, served as prime minister of Somalia in 2011-2012, and oversaw steady progress to drive back the Al-Shabab Islamist militia and to strengthen the central government's remit. He stood unsuccessfully for the presidency of Somalia in 2012, and stepped down as prime minister in October.
In 2013 be began canvassing Puntland opposition groups, and secured their support for his successful bid for the region's presidency on a platform of cooperation with the central government and a greater emphasis on boosting education and welfare.
His immediate tasks, however, will be to deal with the enduring security threat from Al-Shabab, to keep piracy under control, and to rebuild the economy and infrastructure after a major cyclone in November 2012.
Puntland is governed by a 66-member House of Representatives and a traditional council of elders.
The territory's first leader, Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf, served a three-year term until 2001, when his attempt to extend his mandate triggered fierce fighting.
Col Yusuf reclaimed the leadership in 2002 and led Puntland until his election as Somalia's transitional president in October 2004. He was known for his authoritarian approach.
His successor, Mohamed Adde Muse, launched an ambitious programme of economic development with loans from the United Arab Emirates, but was defeated by Mr Farole in elections in 2009, setting a precedent for the smooth transfer of power in 2014.