International observers who monitored the elections for the National Assembly in Djibouti last Friday (February 22nd) have urged all political actors to respect the will of the people and to use legal remedies for any potential challenge. In a joint statement, the heads of the observer missions of the African Union, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Conference and IGAD said that "the parliamentary elections gave the Djibouti people the opportunity to express their opinion freely", and praised "the civic and political maturity of Djibouti." The head of the AU's Observer Mission, the former Prime Minister of Mali, Cissé
Mariam Sidibe Kaidama, said the voting took place in a transparent and acceptable manner. "We have not observed fraud and ballot box stuffing", she said, adding that the announced results reflected what international observers had observed in the field. The head of the observer mission of the OIC, Ambassador Habib Kaabachi, said voting was one of the most regular of which he had ever attended:"It is certain that Djibouti is back on the right track to democracy". The head of the Arab League mission said the observers "inspected more than 154 polling centers and attended sorting in 12 voting centers; it all took place in a climate of transparency and serenity." Opposition parties claimed numerous irregularities including a lack of voter cards, the expulsion of opposition representatives at polling stations, and the intimidating presence of the Republican Guard at polling stations and have disputed the results.
The preliminary results announced by the Minister of Interior, Hassan Darar Houffaneh, gave the ruling Union for a Presidential Majority (UMP) 49.39 percent of the popular vote in the capital, Djibouti City, with the opposition National Salvation Union (USN) taking 47.61 percent of the vote, and the Union of Centre Democrats 2.91%. The Minister said some preliminary results from the provinces suggested the UMP had also done well outside Djibouti City.
It appeared the results are likely to give the UMP a clear majority in parliament, probably around 50 out of the 65 seats. It was the first time in a decade that opposition parties had decided to take part in the elections and it was held under the new system passed by Parliament last year under which 80% of the seats are decided under the previous majority list voting but 20 % are awarded by proportional representation.