Anointed Successor Wins in Djibouti
Apr. 10, 1999
DJIBOUTI (AP) _ The hand-picked successor to Djibouti's longtime leader won a landslide victory in presidential elections, state-run radio said Saturday.
Ruling party candidate Ismail Omar Guelleh will be the second president in this Horn of Africa nation since independence in 1977. The election came after 83-year-old President Hassan Gouled Aptidon, Ismail Omar's uncle, announced his retirement after 22 years in power.
Official returns from the Interior Ministry were expected later Saturday, but Radio Djibouti said Ismail Omar had received 73.29 percent of the vote, while opposition candidate Moussa Ahmed Idriss received 25.61 percent.
The reports said 103,534 of Djibouti's 171,000 registered voters, or 60 percent, turned out Friday to cast ballots in this tiny, impoverished country of 620,000.
A little more than 1 percent of the votes were declared invalid after voters, in apparent protest, cast a red and a white ballot for each candidate _ or neither _ in the envelope.
Other Djiboutians said they did not vote because they believed neither candidate could foster needed changes.
The extent of Ismail Omar's victory varied in the country's five districts.
The radio said that in Djibouti city, 62 percent of the vote went to Ismail Omar, while in the southern Dikhil district and the northern Tadjourah district _ both areas where the opposition has claimed irregularities occurred _ Ismail Omar took more than 90 percent of the vote.
Figures for the remaining two districts were not yet available.
``Ismael Omar Guelleh is someone experienced,'' Gouled told reporters Saturday. ``I will ask him to carry on and also to improve the situation because there are things time did not allow me to do.''
The vote Friday was Djibouti's second multiparty election since independence from France. The first election came in 1993 when Gouled retained his grip on power in a vote marred by fraud allegations.
Gouled said he would continue to play an active political role, both in Djibouti and in the Horn of Africa, once Ismail Omar takes office next month. He said he would encourage his nephew to work for peace among Djibouti's Issa and Afar peoples and to improve the economy.
During the campaign, Ismail Omar promised to create wealth and jobs economic reform. With almost no natural resources, the country depends on support from its patron France, and revenue generated by its port on the Gulf of Aden.
Twenty international observers from the United States, Canada and other nations monitored Friday's vote, which the opposition said was marked by scattered irregularities.
Colin Clarke, a U.S. observer, said he had not seen evidence of major fraud. However, he said, ``The government opens itself up to charges of fraud because they have not instituted an electoral commission.''