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Djibouti Heads to the Polls: The Troubling Illusion – Think Africa Press reports

Friday 22 February 2013 | News | Comments: 0

Think Africa Press reports on the illusion of democracy surrounding Djibouti’s parliamentary election, which is likely to create the country’s first opposition MPs since independence, whilst bringing little change for its people.

Guelleh will be hoping that this slight opening up will be just about enough to calm the organised opposition, possible protestors and the outside world, but without allowing any serious challenge to his own rule. Indeed, regardless of whether the opposition succeed within the current strictures, the real effect may be limited. They will struggle to take enough seats in parliament to have a strong impact, and even if they were to, Djibouti has a strong presidential system of government with the head of state discharging executive and some legislative functions. Whatever happens tomorrow, the power will continue to lie with Guelleh…

The elections are exciting debate and participation on the part of the Djiboutian people. These are the necessary preconditions for more meaningful development. However, if the change fails to go beyond a few opposition MPs it will be illusory. And an illusion, however pleasant, will not solve the people’s many problems: there are frequent food shortages; Djibouti came 94th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index; well over half the population are unemployed; housing, healthcare and sanitation for the majority is poor; the country comes 165th in the world by the UN’s Human Development Index; and a one man band is trying to keep a firm grip on his and his allies’ control over politics, society and the economy…

However, even though Guelleh will still hold the reins of power after tomorrow’s vote, the scale of support for the opposition should worry him. Whilst he may be able to control some of the opposition’s leaders, there appears to be a growing mood for change in some of the country, especially amongst the poor, the young and residents of Balbala, a suburb of Djibouti city, of which opposition support in these elections is indicative. This beginning of a mood shift in segments of the population could prove much more important in the long-term than the election of opposition MPs via a regime sanctioned change in the electoral system.

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