Polls have closed in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, where President Ismael Omar Geulleh's ruling party faced a strong challenge from an opposition coalition in parliamentary elections.
No opposition lawmakers have been elected in Djibouti since its independence from France in 1977. However, the opposition Union for National Salvation received strong support in the lead-up to voting.
About 200,000 citizens are eligible to vote at 480 polling stations across the country. Abdi Ismael Hirsi, head of Djibouti's electoral commission, tells VOA over 60 international observers will be monitoring the election. International media are tightly restricted.
Earlier this week, President Geulleh accused opposition parties of being "spoilers" who were a threat to the security of the country.
Geulleh took over the country from his uncle in 1999.
Ignoring street protests, Geulleh's autocratic government amended the country's constitution in 2010 to allow him to run for a third term as president. He easily won re-election in 2011 following an opposition boycott of the vote.
The tiny but strategically-located nation of about 900,000 people is considered a frontline state in the West's anti-terrorism efforts. It is bordered by Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, and is just across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen.
Djibouti is home to the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, which is reportedly a key hub for Washington's campaign of drone strikes against suspected al-Qaida-linked fighters in the region. It also hosts a large French military contingent.