By Leigha Wentz,
International News Editor
Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh was elected to his fourth term in office on Friday, April 8 despite continued protests over possible civil rights abuses during the campaign.
According to the BBC, Djibouti officials reported that Mr. Guelleh won 87 percent of the vote, while his closest rival, Omar Elmi Kaireh from the Union for National Salvation coalition, came in second with 7 percent of the total vote. The AFP reports that 20 percent of the population, approximately 187,000 people, were eligible to vote in this year’s election.
Opposition candidates and their supporters filed complaints over police brutality and biased media coverage in the weeks before the election, according to Voice of America, and several individuals claim that voters were turned away from polling stations on Election Day.
Mr. Guelleh, who has led Djibouti since 1999, had initially stated that he would not seek reelection before changing his position later in the electoral process, prompting harsh criticism from the opposition. His victory marks his fourth term in office.
“The people of Djibouti have again entrusted me with the state’s highest office,” he said in a speech shortly after the election, as quoted by the BBC.
This year’s election marks the third time that Mr. Guelleh has faced controversy.
Prior to his election in 2011, the Djibouti parliament was forced to change the country’s constitution, eliminating a pre-existing rule that limited presidents to two five-year terms. In the 2013 parliamentary elections, Mr. Guelleh’s rivals charged the election oversight agency with corruption after the president’s party won 49 percent of the vote. Later demands for the creation of an independent election commission were ignored, according to Voice of America.
Djibouti holds a strategic position on the Gulf of Aden and is currently home to the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa, as well as French and Japanese bases. According to the BBC, Djibouti is viewed as one of the few relatively stable states in the region, which outside observers cite as the reason behind limited Western criticism of Mr. Guelleh’s practices.
In the wake of Mr. Guelleh’s reelection, many residents of Djibouti remain frustrated with their limited progress.
“Djibouti’s youth want change… for 40 years, we have seen no change, no development,” Beuh, a resident of the nation’s capital told AFP. The agency did not provide his full name.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 12th print edition.
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