Djibouti: International Observers Term Election as ‘Transparent and Acceptable’

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As cops fought running battles with opposition supporters for a second day on Tuesday in an attempt to disperse protests against the ruling coalition’s parliamentary election victoryElection acceptable says  Cissé Mariam Sidibe Kaidama head of AU observers

Somalilandsun – 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, andPeaceful vote ugly aftermath 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

Meanwhile Reuters reports that Cops have Clashed with Protesters for the second day running

By Reuters

Djibouti – Djibouti security forces fought running battles with opposition supporters for a second day on Tuesday in an attempt to disperse protests against the ruling coalition’s parliamentary election victory, witnesses said.

Djibouti hosts the United States’ only military base in Africa and is an important ally in the U.S.-led fight against militant Islam. The former French colony’s port is also used by foreign navies protecting the Gulf of Aden’s shipping lanes, some of the busiest in the world, from Somali pirates.

Riot police fired tear gas to scatter hundreds of chanting demonstrators outside the Justice Ministry who were demanding the release of Sheikh Bashir Abdourahim, a prominent opposition figure whose family said he had been arrested on Monday.Djibouti cops clash with protesters

“Not only did they steal our election victory, they’re throwing into jail the people we voted for,” Ali Saleh, a university student, told Reuters.

Protesters pledged to keep up the unrest until President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s government collapses.

The dispute over the poll raises the spectre of instability in the tiny but strategically important Red Sea state.

Guelleh’s Union for the Presidential Majority (UMP) declared victory in the election, claiming 49 out of the National Assembly’s 65 seats.

The opposition rejected the vote as flawed and promised demonstrations.

International observers however reported no major incidents during the electoral process.

Guelleh has effectively presided over a one-party state since coming to power in 1999. The oppositGuelleh has effectively presided over a one-party state since coming to power in 1999ion accuses the 65-year-old leader of mounting oppression against Djibouti’s 920,000-strong population.

Relatives of Abdourahim, a moderate Islamist who heads the Movement for Democracy and Freedom (MODEL) party, said he had been badly beaten during his detention.

In a radio broadcast, Interior Minister Hassan Darar appealed for calm, but made no reference to Abdourahim. Authorities have not confirmed his arrest. – Reuters

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