Major opposition parties boycotted the vote, making Zakaria Ismail Farah, a 56-year-old political novice, the incumbent leader’s only challenger.
Voting started in Djibouti, where Ismail Omar Guelleh was seeking a full fifth term but secured as president of the small but strategically located country he ruled for 22 years. .
About 215,000 citizens registered to vote in Friday’s voting, placing Guelleh, 73, against a little-known businessman considered by many to pose little threat to the strong man, the heir. to power in 1999.
Voting points open at 6 a.m. (3 p.m. GMT) across the arid Horn of Africa country, which overlooks one of the world’s busiest trade routes at the crossroads between Africa and the Peninsula. Arabic.
At a voting center in the capital, election observers say the process is going well and all the logistics have been done.
“Things are going well,” Mounir El Fassi, an observer from the Arab League’s mission, told the AFP news agency at a polling place.
Voting ends at 7pm (16:00 GMT) and the results are expected to take place in the evening.
Djibouti’s main opposition parties boycotted the vote, leaving Zakaria Ismail Farah, a 56-year-old new to politics and an importer of cleaning products, Guelleh’s only challenger.
Campaign posters were scarce in the capital, where most of Djibouti’s one million inhabitants reside and nearly 530 polling stations have opened their doors.
Guelleh, who has won at least 75% of the vote in every presidential election he disputed, held his campaign’s final rally on Wednesday, urging voters to come to the large amounts.
Under Guelleh, the country exploited its geographic advantage, invested heavily in ports and logistics infrastructure.
In 2018, seeking to become a hub for commerce and logistics, the country kicked off the first phase of Africa’s largest free trade zone, financed by China.
Mohamed Assad, an unemployed 23-year-old, said Guelleh had a solid economic track record and that he planned to vote for the veteran leader.
“But I ask the President to help young people have a wonderful future. I ask for help for people just like me, ”he said.
Located next to Somalia and facing Yemen, Djibouti remained stable in a volatile neighborhood, attracting foreign military powers such as the former French colony, the United States and China to establish bases there.
But the country has also seen an erosion of press freedom and suppression of dissent because it has attracted foreign attention.
Guelleh, and his extended family, have controlled Djibouti with an iron fist ever since he was given power. A rare wave of opposition protests in 2020 has been brutally suppressed.
His predicted fifth term would be his last, according to a 2010 constitutional reform that removed term limits while introducing a 75 year old limit, which would keep him off. to participate in future elections.
Farah – who had to give up his two French nationalities to join the race – complained that he was not provided with security services for his protests.
He established himself as a “flag bearer for the poor in Djiboutians” and held a few small rallies before canceling the rest in the days before the vote.
According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s economy is in decline by one percent by 2020, but is expected to grow seven percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.
According to the World Bank, Djibouti’s gross domestic product or GDP per capita is about $ 3,500, which is much higher than sub-Saharan Africa but about 20% of the population lives in extreme poverty and 26% are unemployed.