Country Report Djibouti November 2006

Outlook for 2007-08: Domestic politics

Following his re-election in April 2005, the president, Ismaël Omar Guelleh, and the government of his coalition movement, Union pour la majorité présidentielle (UMP), will remain firmly in power over the forecast period. Rassemblement populaire pour le progrès (RPP)-the dominant partner in the ruling UMP coalition-won a landslide victory in local and regional elections in March 2006 and will have sole control of all local and regional assemblies for the next five years. Mr Guelleh now has virtually total power in Djibouti from the national to the local level. However, the RPP's main government partner, Front pour la restauration de l'unité et de la démocratie (FRUD), performed badly in the elections and immediately joined the opposition in claiming electoral irregularities. The president was accused of going back on commitments to introduce electoral reform made in the 2001 peace plan that ended the civil war between Afar rebels, represented by the FRUD, and Issa government forces, represented by the RPP. FRUD disaffection will lead to divisions in the government, and, although this will not weaken the dominant position of Mr Guelleh and the RPP, it could make the ethnic equilibrium in Djibouti between the Afars and Issas increasingly fragile.

In addition, there have been reports of renewed armed conflicts between government forces and Afar rebel groups in the mountains north of Djibouti city. The government launched a military offensive against these rebels in May 2006 and made widespread arrests. These developments could also undermine stability over the forecast period. Nonetheless, the regime's tight control of public order will continue to keep protest off the streets, and a pliant judiciary will reject any attempt by the opposition to challenge the electoral process through the courts. The opposition will remain weak and without influence, and suppression of Islamist opposition to the presence of US troops in Djibouti will continue. If the FRUD were to leave the UMP formally and join the opposition, this would give a major boost to the opposition's position in the country, but the chances of this happening will remain very slim.

© 2006 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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