“To inflate its membership, the UMP buses in people and gives them cash or qat”
There is a huge power imbalance. The USN has no funding; it runs all its operations on a shoestring budget. There is not a single cap, not a single T-shirt to hand out; it’s the belief in the party’s agenda that rallies people to our cause.USN meeting in Ayabley. Photo posted on USN’s Facebook page.In contrast, the UMP does everything with taxpayer money. To inflate its membership, the party buses in people and gives them cash or qat [a popular drug in Djibouti] to get them on their side [the UMP, when contacted by FRANCE 24, denied these accusations]. But there is no genuine popular engagement.The campaign has so far been fairly peaceful. There have not been any threats. The government has provided us with policemen to avoid any incidents. I am in fact very surprised by the absence of repression. But I’m not particularly reassured. I fear massive fraud come election day. Election fraud has always been a problem. Since 1999 and the first election of Ismail Omar Guelleh, each election has been plagued by fraud. But this time around, the people will not accept it.I think that the presence of opposition party members in parliament is a very good thing. It will at least be more representative of our population.
“We don’t need an opposition party with a hate-based platform”
I attend both UMP and USN rallies. The USN has no platform, it’s just a coalition of new parties that banded together two weeks ago. Their platform could be summed up in one sentence. Its leaders are people who have benefited from the system that they are now turning against. The people whose voices we hear are not legitimate [referring to Daher Ahmed Farah who is not eligible due to his dual nationality]. They are calling for a [Arab] Spring that has no place here.They claim they do not have as much money as the UMP to help them in their campaign. However, they have Facebook and Twitter, and the TV channels have set up an allocation of air time for each side.UMP rally in Arhiba. Photo posted on UMP’s Facebook page.That said, I think this new proportional electoral system is a very good thing. Now there will be real debates, as well as measures and projects that won’t pass thanks to the opposition. We the youth have never been as happy. There are certainly certain areas where the government needs to make more of an effort. But we don’t need an opposition with a hate-based platform. Their talking points are very crass; they are only personal insults or an expression of religious beliefs by Islamic radicals, whose messages sound very similar to those of Al Shabaab [the opposition allows religious leaders in its ranks, but it claims that the UMP’s attempt to equate them with Al Shabaab Islamic radicals is part of an effort to demonise the opposition]. In order for things to really change, we need an opposition with intellectually mature leaders.The election will be very close, and the election day itself will probably be very tense, especially when the results are announced.