Voters head to the polls in Djibouti

Feb. 22, 2013 at 12:50 PM

DJIBOUTI, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Voters cast ballots Friday in the east African nation of Djibouti, where candidates from three parties are competing for 65 parliamentary seats, officials said.

Opposition candidates are participating in the parliamentary elections for the first time in a decade, Voice of America reported. No opposition lawmakers have been elected in Djibouti since the country won its independence from France in 1977.

About 200,000 citizens are eligible to vote, Abdi Ismael Hirsi, head of the country's electoral commission, said.

Hirsi told Voice of America that more than 60 international observers were monitoring the election.

Earlier this week, Djibouti President Ismael Omar Geulleh called opposition parties "spoilers" who posed a threat to the country's security. Geulleh took over ruling the country from his uncle in 1999.

In 2010, despite protests, Geulleh's government amended the country's constitution to allow him to run for a third term as president, VOA said. He won re-election to another six-year term in 2011 after opposition leaders boycotted the vote.

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