25 February 2013

Djibouti: Observers Declare Djiboutian Election Legitimate, Opposition Plans Protest

Photo: Rick Bajornas/United Nations
Current president Ismail Omar Guelleh (file photo).

Domestic and international observers have declared Djibouti's legislative elections last week legitimate and transparent, although the opposition Union for National Salvation (USN) has announced plans to protest alleged fraud.

Independent National Electoral Commission chief Abdi Ismail Hersi submitted the commission's final report at its third plenary session Sunday (February 24th), saying the contests had been conducted justly and freely, Djibouti's al-Qarn reported.

"The elections took place nationwide in a democratic atmosphere with full transparency, and though some minor incidents were registered in a number of areas, they did not affect the election's operation or its transparency," he said.

A delegation of 60 international observers inspected more than 154 polling offices and 54 centres, and watched vote sorting at 12 voting centres, the Djiboutian Information Agency reported.

"We have observed neither fraud nor the stuffing of ballot boxes, which would have led us to reject the results," said former Malian Prime Minister Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé, who led the African Union contingent of the international observer mission. "The citizens of Djibouti were able to carry out their civic duties in total transparency."

The USN rejected the electoral results, however, and planned a protest in the capital city for Monday. The rally was expected to commence at 3 pm at Independence Plaza, but the entire area was sealed off by police, leaving about 200 protestors on the Belbela bridge. Police have used tear gas to keep protesters out of the area.

In a statement to state-run RTD Radio, Interior Minister Hassan Darar Houffaneh said any demonstrations would be out of order as the Ministry of Interior has not authorised anyone to hold a public rally. Houffaneh instructed citizens to stay home and not listen to people interested in inciting the public.

Movement in the city was minimal throughout the day as many citizens stayed home. All public schools were closed and businesses within a five-kilometre radius of Independence Plaza were closed.

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