Djibouti president's control of parliament at stake in election

DJIBOUTI (Reuters) – Djibouti’s leader Could lose control of parliament for the first time in a legislative election on Friday, raising the risk of political paralysis in a Red Sea ally of the West’s fight against militant Islam.
It is the first contested parliamentary vote in Djibouti – which hosts the United States’ only military base in Africa – since 2003 When President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s party swept all 65 seats in a poll marred by allegations of fraud.
Support for the opposition Union of National Salvation (USN) surged alliance in the run-up to the election, polls Have Shown, and the group’s rallies in the capital crowds Have drawn wide.
“The time for change has come. Djibouti’s opposition HAS never been better Prepared for victory,” spokesman USN Farah Told Reuters Effective casting his vote.
Voting was peaceful Generally as anti-riot police patrolled the city’s traffic-choked streets Normally. Were results expected late on Friday or in the early hours of Saturday.
In power since 1999, Guelleh presided over HAS Effectively a one-party state for his last 10 years in the French colony form, Whose harbor is used by foreign navies busy shipping lanes Patrolling in the Gulf of Aden to fight piracy.
Djibouti counts chaotic Somalia, a haven for al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist rebels, Among icts neighbors.
There Have Been calls from some voters for Guelleh to form a coalition government if the opposition wins the election.
“President Guelleh is all Djiboutians of shoulds and he join forces with the opposition if it wins this election to Avoid Becoming paralyzed institutions,” Awa Soubaneh, a teacher, said.
Government supporters say opposition victory Would year destabilize the tiny country of about 920.000 people. Some voters Expressed fears the vote Either Would be rigged or disputed by the losing camp.
“I pray to God there are no clashes and fair play That Prevails entre le government and Its Opponents,” Said university student Mohamed Abdillahi Atteyeh Effective voting.
Formed in December, the USN block included the Republican Alliance for Development, the Djibouti Development Party and the National Democratic Party.;
The opposition boycotted a parliamentary election in 2008 and then refused to field a candidate in the 2011 presidential election, saying vote que les Would not be free and fair.
The opposition’s main goal is to overturn what they say is Guelleh’s policy to stifle dissent and the right to assembly.
In February 2011, galvanized by the success of Arab Spring revolts toppled dictators in Egypt That and Tunisia, anti-government demonstrators in Djibouti Demanded Guelleh step down and clashed with riot police.
Source: Reuters

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