Election Laws, Systems and Processes
The highest official in the executive branch in the Republic of Djibouti is the president. The President is elected for six years, for a maximum of two terms. The Constitution of 1981 mandated a one-party system of governance. A new Constitution approved by a national referendum in September 1992 introduced a multiparty system to the country, limiting the number of parties to four. The restriction on the number of parties was lifted in September 2002. A presidential candidate must receive a majority of the votes to win the election. If no single candidate receives an absolute majority in the first round of voting, a second round of voting between the candidates with the two highest vote shares determines the winner. In addition, presidential candidates must be members of approved political parties, and must be represented by at least 25 members of the legislature, the Chamber of Deputies. The Ministry of Interior oversees elections. Voting rights are granted to Djibouti nationals who are at least 18 years of age.
The legislature in Djibouti is composed of a unicameral Chamber of Deputies. The 65 members of the Chamber are elected by popular vote for five-year terms. Members are elected from five multi-member constituencies, each of which holds between 4 and 37 seats based on population. The electoral system in place is the simple majority, party-list system. There is one round of voting; vote splitting and preferential voting are not permitted. Candidates must be Djibouti nationals at least 23 years of age. The names of members on the party lists must be submitted to the electoral authorities of the Ministry of Interior at least 15 days prior to the start of the campaign.
The latest presidential elections in Djibouti took place on April 8, 2005, although the opposition parties had called on citizens to boycott them because the conditions for conducting free and democratic elections were not being met. President Ismail Omar Guelleh was the only candidate. The ministry of interior declared that the rate of participation was 78.9% of eligible voters. Mr. Guelleh received 100% of valid votes cast, but 5.7% of the ballots were declared invalid. The first presidential election in which multiple parties participated took place in May 1993. Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who received approximately 60% of the votes, defeated his closest competitor Mohamed Jama Elabe, who received close to 22% of the vote. In all, five candidates participated in the elections, and total voter turnout in 1993 is estimated to have been approximately 50% of the registered voters. Aptidon, who had served as president of Djibouti since 1977, was elected for a total of four six-year terms, but did not participate in the most recent elections, held in April 1999. In these, Ismael Omar Guelleh, a member of the RPP was elected as president, with close to 75% of the vote. Moussa Ahmed Idriss, an independent candidate, received approximately 25% of the vote.
Multiparty elections for the legislature were held in 1992, 1997, and 2003. In 1992, one of the four parties allowed by the 1992 Constitution, the legalized arm of the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), boycotted the elections. The FRUD argued that the ruling People’s Rally for Progress (RPP) had the unfair advantage of access to government resources for the campaigns. Voter turnout in 1992 is estimated to have been 48 percent of the registered voters. In the most recent legislative elections, held on January 11, 2003, eight parties contested the elections in two broad coalitions. The ruling Union for the Presidential Majority, a coalition that includes the RPP and the FRUD as well as two other parties, secured all of the 65 seats to the legislature, receiving 62.7 percent of the total votes cast. The opposition coalition, the Union for a Democratic Alternative (UAD), won 37.3 percent of the vote but no seats in parliament. Ahmad Deeni, the leader of the UAD complained of election fraud and appealed to the Constitutional Council, which ignored his appeal. The Commissioner of the Republic from Djibouti, however, observed many irregularities in the Ministry of the Interior’s lists of eligible voters. Voter turnout in 2003 was 48.4 percent. Prior to these elections, the Council of Ministers approved in October 2002 the allocation of 10% of the Assembly's seats to women. Fourteen women ran in the latest elections, with the result that Djiboutian women held seven seats in the National Assembly for the first time. The elections were monitored by observers from the Arab League and the African Union.
The Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization announced in November 2005 that the country’s first local elections would be conducted on December 30, 2005, but they had to be postponed for lack of adequate preparation.