Campaigning started Friday for Djibouti’s April 8 poll, with outgoing president Ismael Omar Guelleh holding the first campaign rally in this tiny but strategically located Horn of Africa country.
Guelleh, who has been in power since 1999, was cheered by his supporters when he arrived in Balbala, a poor district of the capital, for his meeting, an AFP correspondent said.
The head of the electoral commission Assoweh Idris Assoweh said the campaign had “got off to an auspicious start.”
Guelleh will face only one rival in the poll, independent candidate Mohamed Warsama Ragueh, the former head of the Constitutional Council.
Djibouti is strategically situated on one of the world’s busiest shipping routes where the Red Sea joins the Gulf of Aden. It hosts the only US military base in Africa and the largest overseas French army base. Since last year it has also been home to a Japanese base.
Guelleh is the nephew and former senior aide to Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who was in power from 1977 to 1999. In April 2010 parliament voted a constitutional reform to allow Guelleh to run for a third six-year term.
Djibouti’s opposition parties — the Union for Democratic Change (UAD) and the Union of Democratic Movements (UMD) — plan to boycott the poll as they have failed to field a consensus candidate and because they accuse the electoral commission of favouring the ruling party.
There was no sign Friday of the political meeting that the opposition parties had wanted to hold to coincide with the start of the electoral campaign.
The government warned them Thursday not to try to hold such a rally on the grounds that only candidates or parties fielding an approved candidate are allowed to hold meetings during the campaign.