Friday, April 1, 2016

Djibouti: President eyes fourth term win after 17 years stay

(AFP) - After 17 years under his rule, few doubt Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh will fail to win a fourth term in polls next week, with a divided opposition already calling the vote a sham.

Supporters of Guelleh -- president since 1999 of the tiny but strategic former French colony whose port guards the entrance to the Red Sea and Suez Canal -- are confident of victory in the April 8 vote.

Since campaigning began on March 25 portraits of "IOG", as Guelleh is nicknamed, have lined the baking hot streets of Djibouti city, capital of the arid Horn of Africa nation of some 820,000 people, where Guelleh supporters parade in the green party colours of his Union for the Presidential Majority (known by its French acronym, UMP).

"We are optimistic, especially when we see that the opposition party is straggling", said Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf.

Guelleh won the last polls five years ago with 80 percent of the vote, after parliament changed the constitution in April 2010 to clear the way for a third, and now a likely fourth, term.

The main opposition group, the so-called Union for National Salvation (USN), is a collapsing coalition of opposition parties.

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