Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh won a fifth five-year term on Saturday after an election boycotted by most of the opposition, securing over 97 percent of the votes cast, official data from the Interior Ministry showed on Saturday.

Friday’s vote pitted only one challenger against the incumbent — relative newcomer Zakaria Ismail Farah.

The Interior Ministry data showed that he came second with 2.48 percent of the 177,391 votes cast. Some 5,447 ballots were declared invalid.

Farah said the results were “far from reality.”

“This outcome is undoubtedly the result of ballot-box stuffing, [which] occurred in the absence of my delegates,” Farah told Reuters, adding they were barred from accessing polling stations to monitor the process.

Alexis Mohamed, the president’s chief advisor, denied the allegations of fraud and said Farah had abstained from casting his vote.

“Allegations of ballot-box stuffing are absolutely false, the gentleman who raises them didn’t even vote and in doing so attacked our democracy,” Mohamed told Reuters over the phone.

Farah told Reuters in a text message he abstained from voting as he had been victimized from the beginning of his campaign until Election Day.

The Horn of Africa country, with a population of less than one million, is relatively stable, especially compared with its regional neighbors Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

It hosts U.S., Chinese, and French military bases and is located along one of the world’s busiest trade routes, the Gulf of Aden, making it a strategic post.

Ethiopia and Somalia’s leaders congratulated Guelleh on his victory.

One of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, Guelleh, 73, has been in power since 1999 when he was handpicked by his uncle Hassan Gouled Aptidon, the country’s first president after it gained independence from France in 1977.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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