Voting is under way in Horn of Africa nation Djibouti, with long-time President Ismail Omar Guelleh expected to win by a landslide.

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Djibouti is strategically positioned at the mouth of the Red Sea, which is the gateway to the Suez Canal through which large volumes of oil and other commodities and products transit each day.

The country also hosts military bases of the US, China and former colonial power France.

Guelleh, 73, is seeking a fifth term in office and, with all major opposition parties boycotting the election due to a perceived lack of fair competition, the man who has ruled the nation for more than two decades is set to land an easy victory.

His only competitor is a former army officer and now businessman, Zakaria Ismael Farah.

One country expert who is well informed about Djibouti’s political scene told Upstream that Farah is a relative of Guelleh.

More than 200,000 people are expected to vote in the election in a country that has a population of less than 1 million, many of whom live in poverty.

Former Canadian minnow Oyster Oil & Gas held a quartet of blocks in Djibouti and four years ago kicked off the next stage of exploration under a production sharing contract.

However, in June 2019, parent company ZTR Acquisition transferred all its share capital in Oyster to Northbay Capital Partners and Gunsynd in settlement of outstanding debts owing to creditors in connection with certain convertible debentures issued by ZTR.

Djibouti is also of strategic importance as its port gives vital access to international markets to landlocked neighbour Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has a rapidly growing population — around 115 million as of 2020 and growing — and is an emerging regional powerhouse with a growing economy.

Chinese player Poly GCL has been attempting to get a large gas project in Ethiopia off the ground, with Djibouti lined up to play a central role.

Significant volumes of gas — about 4 trillion to 5 trillion cubic feet — have been found in the Calub and Hilal fields in the remote and restive Ogaden region, but a plan by Poly GCL to pipe this gas to Djibouti and export it as liquefied natural gas has slowed down.