General elections underway in Djibouti

General elections underway in Djibouti

 Djiboutians will head to the polls today to elect a new legislature; all 65 seats are up for grabs. In

djibouti_elections

Photo: Alliance/Abaca

 Djiboutians will head to the polls today to elect a new legislature; all 65 seats are up for grabs.

In power since 1999, President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s Union for the Presidential Majority coalition is likely to retain a strong majority of Djibouti’s parliament after winning 55 seats in 2013’s legislative elections. Despite the presence of African Union and Arab League observers, today’s vote is unlikely to be free and fair–media freedom is a common complaint by Djibouti’s opposition.

Still, any complaints regarding the fairness of the election will be overlooked internationally. Located on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, Djibouti is strategically located at the gateway to the Suez Canal, one of the world’s key shipping chokepoints.

President Guelleh has taken full advantage of this by hosting US, French and Chinese military bases in his tiny country, essentially playing to all sides.

Indeed, with a deal for a Saudi Arabian military base in Djibouti currently being finalised, Guelleh could have the leverage to ensure a favourable report from the Arab League.

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