April 9, 2011
DJIBOUTI – Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh garnered 80.58 percent of votes cast in the country’s elections on Friday, provisional results showed on Saturday, giving him a third term in power.
Interior Minister Yacin Elmi Bouh said Guelleh’s rival, Mohamed Warsama, got 19.42 percent of votes cast in the election, which had a 69.68 percent turnout.
Just over 152,000 people are registered to vote in the small Red Sea state which has the only U.S. military base in Africa and the largest French army camp on the continent. It is also used by anti-piracy naval patrols.
Guelleh called on television for all Djiboutians to unite and start work so they could overcome the challenges ahead together. He said whatever people voted, there were more things that united Djiboutians than divided them, adding the election result was not a victory for one side, but for the nation as a whole.
The opposition in the former French colony initially boycotted the ballot and tried to start Egyptian-style protests in February. Thereafter it supported independent candidate Warsama, a former president of Djibouti’s Constitutional Court. The opposition claimed ahead of the election there was little chance of it being free and fair, given the crackdown on demonstrations in a country which is ranked by the United Nations as one of the poorest in the world.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the U.S.-funded Democracy International election monitoring organisation was expelled from Djibouti in March. The government said the body had failed to maintain its neutrality in the run-up to the vote.
Abdourahman Boreh, a leading opposition leader who withdrew from the presidential race, said Guelleh could now foster national unity by consulting opposition groups inside and out of the country on the best way to move forward.
“We knew that the election would not be fair and free, and I’ve already said that it will not be a legitimate government, he told Reuters by phone from London.
“He should accept that people should have a political voice, and work with them together to open up the democracy in Djibouti and create a proper parliament in 2012 and to accommodate all the opposition.”
Asked about the possibility of any anti-government demonstrations in future, self-exiled Boreh said what mattered now was for the country to be united.
“Personally what is more important for me is to have national unity, to discuss these things, to open up the democracy and to see whether we do it in a more civilised manner,” he said.
Guelleh, 63, has been in power since 1999 and a change in the constitution in 2010 allowed him to run for a third term, a move that angered opposition leaders.
Djibouti serves as a port for its landlocked neighbour Ethiopia, which accounts for about 70 percent of traffic, and is also bordered by Eritrea and Somalia.