Djibouti: Presidential Polls Expected to Extend Guelleh’s 22 Years in Power

Incumbent President of Djibouti Ismail Omar Gelle casts his vote for presidential elections in Bulo-Ows polling station of Djibouti City. on Friday, April, 9, 2021.[Image: Courtesy]
Djibouti— President Ismail Omar Guelleh is expected to win a fifth term in office and extend his 21 year-long-rule as Djibouti votes today, April 9, 2021.

Guelleh, 73, is facing political newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah, his only opponent after established opposition parties decided to boycott the election.

The head of state campaigned under the theme of continuity. During the rallies, he affirmed his intentions to continue with his leadership and conclude the projects he has started.

On the other hand, 57-year-old Zakaria Ismael Fara, is totally unpopular to the public, having first surfaced on the political scene in January when he declared his ambition to run for the country’s top position.

With the absence of the opposition in the elections, the incumbent president has the highest chance to beat his unpopular competitor and win re-election in a country that has a population of less than a million people. 

According to reports, the ongoing elections are peaceful, with more than 200,000 voters expected to cast ballots before polls close at 19:00 local time.

Djiboutians are likely to vote for the president, following his progress in developing the tiny but strategically important Horn of Africa nation.

In 2010, the constitution was changed to scrap presidential term limits, though an age limit of 75 was set, meaning Guelleh’s expected fifth term should be his last.

During Guelleh’s administration, Djibouti has invested heavily in its port’s infrastructure, becoming the primary gateway to landlocked Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country.

Economically, Djibouti is doing fairly well despite the coronavirus pandemic that affected its economy. Growth forecasts for 2021 range from 1 to 3%.

Human Rights Watch, however, says that since Guelleh came to office in 1999, the government has repeatedly restrained the media and civil liberties.

His rival Farah who has been representing many detained activists say the actions of the president are a clear indication of the regime’s “dictatorship”