Djibouti went to the polls for the National Assembly (Assemblée nationale) elections on the 22nd of February 2013. More than 173,000 people are expected to have voted for the 65 seats available in the National Assembly.[i] It is also said to be the first time in a decade that the opposition has not boycotted the elections.[ii] In fact no opposition politicians have been elected in the Horn of Africa nation since it gained its independence from France in 1977. [iii] This means that there will be opposition politicians in the parliament, a good sign for democracy in Djibouti.

The National Assembly of Djibouti is unicameral with 65 Seats; members serve 5-year terms.[iv]  Members used to be elected by direct popular vote in multi-member constituencies using the party-block vote system. The electoral system was changed in 2012 so that 13 seats would be elected by proportional representation, while the remaining 52 would be voted in using the peculiar multi-member per constituency first-past-the-post system used previously.[v] Previously the party that received the most votes in each district received all of the district’s seats.[vi]

Women’s Political Participation

According to the electoral law the minimum number of either women or men candidates in each political party's list must be equivalent to 10 percent of the seats to be filled (Law 192, Article 2). In a presidential decree from 2002, this is clarified to mean that each party must ensure 10 % of either sex is also elected, not only does the 2002 act institute a 10 % quota on either sex in parliament, but from 2008 it also provides for at least 20 % of either sex in senior public positions.[vii]

Progress in Women political participation

Women in Djibouti enjoy a higher public status than in many other Islamic countries. The government is leading efforts to stop illegal and abusive traditional practices. However, women's rights and family planning continue to face difficult challenges, many stemming from acute poverty in both rural and urban areas.

The 2008 legislative elections brought two more women into the National Assembly, raising to nine the number of female parliamentarians in the 65-seat body. There was one woman in the 21-member cabinet, and the president of the Supreme Court, who by law acts in the president's stead in case of death or incapacitation, was a woman.[viii]  Therefore with female ministers and members of parliament, the presence of women in government has increased. The just concluded elections hopefully will reflect an increase of women in political representation.

Fair Elections?

One of the concerns in these elections was the internet censorship on the opposition websites. "The two camps are not competing on a level playing field," said Hamdi Farah, a lecturer at the University of Djibouti a supporter of the Republican Alliance for Development party, which is part of the opposition coalition. "With this campaign, the opposition is off to a weak start, as several of their internet sites are still being censored by the government."[ix]

Another issue was the arrest of the opposition leader Daher Ahmed Farah, who was arrested more than a month ago; the government however released him following an upsurge of popular protest, resulting in the destruction of a warehouse in Djibouti city. Leading figures in the opposition movement expressed their desire for democratic elections to proceed and reflect the will of the people. Aicha Dabale, spokesperson on behalf of the Friends of Djibouti, said “We are witnessing a growing sense of frustration in Djibouti and its political system. We call on governments and NGOs to ensure that free and fair elections take place in Djibouti next week to ensure that the voice of the people of Djibouti is heard and reflected in electoral results.”[x]

Djibouti's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that a total of sixty observers would be monitoring Djibouti's legislative elections. The observers were drawn from the African Union (AU), the Arab League, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).[xi]  The elections are considered to have been calm and run smoothly.

Women Political Representation Statistics.[xii]


 Political Representation

As of 2008

As of 2013

Female parliamentary candidates




Female Members of Parliament


9/65 (13.85%)

7/65 (12.73%)




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