Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh is expected to extend his two-decade rule of the tiny Horn of Africa nation as the country heads to the polls Friday.
Guelleh, 73, is facing political newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah, his only rival after traditional opposition parties decided to boycott the election.
A businessman specialised in the importation of cleaning products, Farah, 56, is seen by observers as unlikely to pose a significant challenge to the strongman who has been in power for 22 years.
Guelleh, flanked by his wife and government officials, wrapped up his campaign on Wednesday with a colourful final rally in a stadium packed with cheering supporters and traditional dancers.
“As I see you today in large numbers, I am sure that you will also come in large numbers to the polling stations,” Guelleh said before crowds wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with his popular initials, IOG.
Djibouti is a largely desert country strategically situated on one of the world’s busiest trade routes and at the crossroads between Africa and the Arabian peninsula, a short distance from war-torn Yemen.
Under Guelleh, the country has exploited this geographical advantage, investing heavily in ports and logistics infrastructure.
“He gave hope to the youth, and built ports for this country. Thanks to him we are no longer unemployed”, said 23-year-old Halima Saad, one of the estimated 25,000 who attended Wednesday’s rally.