Ismail Guelleh wins fourth term as Djibouti president

Incumbent to continue to head strategically important country following vote marked by complaints of curbs on freedom.

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Ismail Omar Guelleh has been re-elected Djibouti president for a fourth term, according to the prime minister of the East African country.

Guelleh, 68, has been Djibouti’s leader for 17 years and sealed another term in the office after the first round of the presidential election on Friday.

Guelleh's hold on power is largely attributed to divisions within the opposition and to government repression of dissent [Reuters]
Guelleh’s hold on power is largely attributed to divisions within the opposition and to government repression of dissent [Reuters]
“According to our projections, we can say that the UMP candidate [Guelleh of the Union for the Presidential Majority] has been elected in the first round,” Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed, the prime minister, announced on national television.

“The people of Djibouti have followed the path of wisdom, stability, security and development.”

Opposition groups had complained of curbs on freedom of assembly in advance of the vote, while rights groups have denounced political repression and crackdowns on basic freedoms.

As with the previous election in 2011, the announcement was made before all the votes were in.

However, Guelleh is said to be easily above the 50 percent threshold required to avoid a second-round of voting.

Guelleh will continue to head the strategically important Horn of Africa country that hosts thousands of foreign troops in military bases.

He was credited with receiving around three-quarters of the votes cast in the capital Djibouti and in Balbala, a populous and dilapidated  suburb.

The two areas comprise about 60 percent of the country’s population, prompting Mohamed to declare Guelleh’s apparent victory.

Opposition boycott

About 187,000 people – about a fifth of the population – were eligible to vote in Friday’s election that was boycotted by some oppposition parties.

Due to the boycott and with turnout low throughout the day the electoral commission extended polling by an hour.

Guelleh won the 2011 election with 80 percent of the vote after the country’s parliament altered the constitution to allow him to extend his rule.

His party UMP also holds the majority of the seats in the parliament.

Guelleh is Djibouti’s second president since independence from France in 1977.

He succeeded his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, in 1999.

Guelleh’s strong hold on power is largely attributed to divisions within the opposition and to government repression of dissent.