DJIBOUTI CITY, 9 April 2021 – President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti is running Friday for re-election to a historic fifth term at the helm of the Horn of Africa nation.
The victory of the 73-year-old Omar Guelleh, fondly known as IOG, is considered a foregone conclusion.
His only opponent is a political newcomer, Zakaria Ismail Farah, with traditional opposition parties boycotting the ballot.
The opposition has claimed that the election will not be free, fair, and transparent.
Fifty-three-year-old Ismail Farah is a businessman who specializes in importing cleaning products and he is seen as unlikely to pose any significant threat against Omar Guelleh, who has been in power for 22 years already.
The businessman was little known until he announced on social media that he intended to run for the country’s top job.
Ismail Farah does not even have a political party and has ran what newspapers have called a short-lived campaign, making few media appearances and even fewer in-person campaign rallies.
With an overall population of under one million inhabitants, Djibouti is not used to staging massive campaign rallies.
One of Omar Guelleh’s closing rallies held in the capital, Djibouti City on Wednesday, shattered records, with an attendance estimated at 25,000 supporters.
Omar Guelleh has been campaigning under the theme of continuity, promising to use his next term – a record sixth – to pursue the development projects he claims are transforming Djibouti.
The French News Agency (AFP) published excerpts of interviews of some of Guelleh’s youth supporters.
Twenty-three-year-old Halima Saad told the AFP he was happy with returning Guelleh to power for his work in giving hope to the country’s youth in building ports and in providing him with a job.
Supporters of the opposition accused the Guelleh administration of hardening its positions since 1999
“The more it has opened to the world, the more it has closed internally,” said Sonia Le Gourielle, a political scientist and author.
A run-off could be organized next April 23 between the top two vote winners, if (by some magic) none of the candidates garners a majority – 50 percent plus one – of the votes cast.
President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh was credited with winning re-election for a fourth term in office with 87 percent of the votes cast.
Omar Guelleh was an intelligence officer and director of the cabinet of the former president, Hassan Gouled, before becoming president in 1999.