11/04/05 (B293) Revue de presse en Anglais (Informations lecteur)

Djibouti leader wins
one-man poll

Ismail Omar Guelleh says he will not stand in another election
Djibouti’s incumbent leader, Ismail Omar Guelleh, has won presidential elections
boycotted by the opposition and in which he was the sole candidate.
The high turnout – 78.9% – was the only unpredictable element in the polls.

Mr Guelleh, who won 100%
of the ballots cast, told France’s Le Figaro newspaper he regretted "having
no opponent".

Earlier on Friday, police
fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters rallying against the elections
who had set up a roadblock with burning tyres.

During his campaign, Mr
Guelleh pledged to reduce poverty and the country’s dependence on food imports
while boosting women’s rights and transparency in the public administration.

"I accuse the opposition
of not having the courage to give voters the right to choose between several
candidates," the French paper quoted him as saying.


But the opposition has
vowed not to accept his re-election.

"We would rather
die standing than follow on our knees," a banner read.

"It is meaningless
to vote," Ali Guedda Boulsa told the AFP news agency before Mr Guelleh’s
victory was announced. "Our votes are never considered."

Djibouti hosts both US and French military bases

After casting his ballot,
Mr Guelleh said the opposition "were afraid to engage in the battle."

He campaigned vigorously
with most rallies held in the evening when the scorching afternoon temperatures
of up to 45C had cooled.

He has been in power since
winning elections in 1999 but says he will not stand again.

The only challenger withdrew
last month citing a lack of funds.

A diplomat told the BBC’s
Mohammed Adow in Djibouti that, with the outcome not in doubt, the process
itself would be closely watched.

The opposition accused
the ruling coalition of rigging 2003 parliamentary elections in which it won
all 65 seats.

Earlier this year, the
US criticised Djibouti’s human rights record as "poor".

This criticism came despite
Djibouti hosting the only US military base in Africa which Washington uses
for its fight against terror in the region.

Djibouti, strategically
placed on the Red Sea, also has the largest French military base in Africa.