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Little Suspense Ahead of Djibouti Poll


FILE - Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh, October 2013.

FILE - Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh, October 2013.

Djibouti goes to the polls Friday. President Ismail Omar Guelleh, in power since 1999, is widely expected to win another term though concerns have been raised about the country's human rights situation in the run-up to the poll.

Djibouti’s president is seeking his fourth term in office. It's an about-face on the president's previous pledges to step down in 2016, but there is little suspense.

President Guelleh faces six challengers, none of whom have emerged as a clear frontrunner.

Some opposition parties are boycotting the poll, saying the electoral commission is not independent. The parties also complain of unfair media coverage and arrests of their supporters.

Strategic location

Djibouti sits on the Red Sea, and the United States, France and Japan have important military bases there. China announced in December that will build a naval base. The bases are a key source of revenue for the tiny country.

Regional political analyst Abdiwaha Sheikh Abdisamd says stability is paramount.

“If there is any problem... Djibouti cannot afford to have the political violence which is witnessed in Africa,” said Abdisamd.

Authorities detained and expelled a team of BBC reporters last week. The Committee to Protect Journalists called it "an act of censorship" and said two local reporters had also been detained without charge in January.

Results of the poll are expected as early as Friday night.

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