The Djibouti strongman Ismael Omar Guelleh will serve for the fifth term as president of the small Horn of Africa, making him one of the longest-serving African presidents in a country where democracy is said to be utopian.
According to election results projected by AFP after Friday’s election, Guelleh, who was first elected president in 1999, achieved nearly 98 percent of the vote in an election that was widely boycotted by opposition candidates who questioned credibility.
An estimated 215,000 citizens were registered to vote on the ballot paper Guelleh, 73, against a lesser-known businessman who is widely seen as posing a petty threat to the powerful man who has been in power since 1999.
The count started shortly after the polling stations closed around noon. 19:00 in the Horn of Africa, which overlooks one among the world’s busiest trade routes at the crossroads of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
“President Ismail Omar Guelleh obtained 167,535 votes, which is 98.58 percent,” Interior Minister Moumin Ahmed Cheick told public television station RTD early Saturday, adding that confirmed results will soon be released by the Constitutional Council.
According to many independent election observers, the process went smoothly without reports of misdemeanors. Earlier, after voting in the capital, where most of Djibouti’s one million people live, Guelleh praised the smooth running of the election exercise.
Dressed in immaculate white traditional attire, he said he was “very, very confident” of victory, after casting his vote in a transparent ballot.
President Ismael Omar Guelleh faced only one challenger – political newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah – after Djibouti’s main opposition parties boycotted the election.
Farah, a 56-year-old importer of cleaning products, ended up with less than 5,000 votes according to preliminary results. Farah questioned the transparency of the voting process, saying his delegate was not present at the polls.
“My vote is useless, nor is it the vote of 80 percent of the Djibouti people,” the opposition candidate told AFP in a text message.
Guelleh was first elected president in 1999 as the hand-picked successor to his uncle, Hassan Guled Abtidon, who had ruled Djibouti since independence in 1977. The country was colonized by France and French is widely used as the official language.