Polls open in Djibouti as veteran ruler Guelleh seeks fifth time period


Main opposition events boycotted the vote, leaving Zakaria Ismail Farah, a 56-year-old political newcomer as incumbent chief’s solely challenger.

Voting has begun in Djibouti the place Ismail Omar Guelleh is in search of an all however assured fifth time period because the president of the small however strategically situated nation he has dominated for 22 years.

Some 215,000 residents are registered to vote within the poll on Friday pitting Guelleh, 73, towards a little-known businessman broadly seen to pose little menace to the strongman, who inherited energy in 1999.

Polling stations opened at 6am (03:00 GMT) throughout the arid Horn of Africa nation, which overlooks one of many world’s busiest commerce routes on the crossroads between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

At a voting centre within the capital, election observers stated the method was rolling out easily and all logistics have been in place.

“Everything is going fine,” Mounir El Fassi, an observer from the Arab League mission, instructed the AFP information company at one polling station.

Voting closes at 7pm (16:00 GMT) and the outcomes are anticipated by the night.

Djibouti’s essential opposition events boycotted the vote, leaving Zakaria Ismail Farah, a 56-year-old political newcomer and importer of cleansing merchandise, as Guelleh’s solely challenger.

Campaign posters have been scarce within the capital, the place most of Djibouti’s a million individuals reside and the place nearly 530 polling stations have opened their doorways.

Guelleh, who has clinched at the very least 75 % of the vote in each presidential election he has contested, held his remaining marketing campaign rally on Wednesday, urging voters to prove in massive numbers.

Under Guelleh, the nation has exploited its geographical benefit, investing closely in ports and logistics infrastructure.

In 2018, in search of to turn into a commerce and logistics hub, the nation launched the primary section of what is going to be Africa’s greatest free-trade zone, financed by China.

Mohamed Assad, an unemployed 23-year-old, stated Guelleh had a robust file on the financial system and he deliberate on voting for the veteran chief.

“But I ask you Mr President to help the youth to have a great future. I ask for help for those who are like me,” he stated.

Iron fist

Flanked by Somalia and reverse Yemen, Djibouti has remained steady in a unstable neighbourhood, drawing overseas army powers akin to former colonial ruler France, the United States and China to determine bases there.

But the nation has additionally seen an erosion of press freedom and a crackdown on dissent because it has courted overseas curiosity.

Guelleh, and his prolonged household, have managed Djibouti with an iron fist since he was handed energy. A uncommon wave of opposition protests in 2020 have been brutally suppressed.

000 97K6YZSupporters of Guelleh react to the musical efficiency of Ethiopian hip-hop artist Maslah through the president’s final electoral rally on Wednesday earlier than the polls on Friday [Tony Karumba/AFP]

His predicted fifth time period can be his final, beneath a 2010 constitutional reform that scrapped time period limits whereas introducing an age restrict of 75, which might lock him out of future elections.

Farah – who needed to resign his twin French citizenship to affix the race – complained he was not provided safety companies for his rallies.

He had styled himself because the “flag-bearer of poor Djiboutians” and held just a few small rallies earlier than cancelling the remaining within the days earlier than the polls.

The nation’s financial system shrank by one % in 2020, however is anticipated to develop seven % this 12 months, in line with the International Monetary Fund.

Djibouti’s gross home product or GDP per capita earnings is about $3,500, greater than a lot of sub-Saharan Africa however some 20 % of the inhabitants lives in excessive poverty and 26 % are unemployed, in line with the World Bank.