Djibouti President Guelleh Expected to Retain Power After Election

Djibouti held its presidential election on Friday, and with a fractured opposition party, President Ismail Omar Guelleh was expected to win his fourth term.

Guelleh first took power of the tiny East African country in 1999, and has ruled ever since. He is only the second president Djibouti has had since it gained independence from France in 1977.

Five other candidates are running against him, but Guelleh is the clear front-runner, and some opposition parties boycotted the election after Guelleh went back on his earlier decision not to run.

Opposition leaders have complained of police brutality in the weeks leading up to the election, and say the media covers them unfairly.

Complaints surfaced about election irregularities when polls opened early Friday. Two opposition politicians accused the government of removing their representatives from polling stations. They also accused soldiers of voting in stations where they are not supposed to.

“The irregularities have started after 9am. There are 4,000 soldiers brought deployed in Ali Sabeih to vote at polling stations, our delegates were removed from the polling stations,” said Omar Elmi Khaire of the Union for National Salvation (USN) opposition umbrella.

“In Obolley [village] there are only 55 people who are registered to vote but there are now 500 soldiers who are voting, our delegates were ejected,” he said.

Another opposition politician, Mohamed Muse Tourtour, an independent candidate, repeated similar accusations. He told VOA (Somali) that he reported the issue to the Interior Ministry, which he says assured him the claims be will investigated.

The main opposition coalition is being further hampered by fractures in leadership. Guelleh’s two main opponents, Mohamed Daoud Chehem and Omar Elmi Khaireh, both claim to represent the USN opposition coalition.

The seven-party opposition coalition has also experienced a split in its ranks, with three of its member parties breaking from the planned election boycott.

Opposition leaders are particularly concerned about the legitimacy of the election oversight agency, which they say is rife with fraud. In 2013, following the parliamentary elections that saw Guelleh’s party win with 49 percent of the vote, his rivals demanded that an independent election commission be established. The commission has not been created.

Guelleh won his last election in 2011 with 80 percent of the vote. In order for Guelleh to win that election parliament had to change the country’s constitution because presidents were limited to two terms.

Source: VOA