The head of Djibouti’s National Democratic Party (NDP) has urged supporters to vote for independent candidate Mohamed Warsama in a presidential election this week that is being boycotted by opposition parties.
A former president of the country’s Constitutional Court, Warsama is the sole challenger to President Ismail Omar Guelleh in Friday’s vote in the tiny Horn of Africa country, a former French colony that borders on Somalia.
NDP chief Aden Robleh said on state television yesterday that his decision was motivated by Warsama’s ideals on democracy, justice and social equality, which closely resemble those of his party. “Today we have the opportunity to elect a man of conviction who could bring the change we want,” says Robleh.
Opposition groups pulled out of the election campaign due to widespread suspicions the vote will be rigged. Djibouti’s location gives it strategic importance since its port is used by foreign navies patrolling busy shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy emanating from Somalia.
Robleh says the ruling People’s Rally for Progress (RPP) party had “done everything to prevent us from participating in elections” by manipulating the national Electoral Commission, adding that Guelleh should not try to steal the election.
In February, galvanised by the success of regional protest movements such as those that toppled the long-serving rulers of Egypt and Tunisia, anti-government demonstrators in Djibouti demanding that Guelleh step down clashed with riot police and were dispersed with tear gas.
Other opposition leaders have urged the public to end three decades of monolithic rule by the RPP, the country’s oldest political party, and vote for independent candidates.
Guelleh’s spokesperson says Djiboutians knew that Robleh had no convictions and would pay no attention to him. “It is not this alliance with a political novice who does not even have a political programme that will worry the president,” says Mahmoud Ali Youssouf. Guelleh, 63, has been in power since 1999. -Reuters