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Djibouti throws out opposition election challenge
DJIBOUTI (Reuters) - A Djibouti opposition legal challenge to last month's ruling party election victory was dismissed by the Constitutional Council on Wednesday, the council's president said.
The opposition Union of National Salvation (USN) alliance had said the parliamentary election was rigged, citing results that were announced too quickly and incidences of ballot-stuffing and double voting.
The ruling by the Constitutional Council, the highest constitutional authority in the country, means President Ismail Omar Guelleh, in power since 1999, retains control of the national assembly.
Policy-making in the Red Sea state, which is a regional partner in the U.S.-led fight both against militant Islam and piracy off Somalia, had risked becoming paralyzed had opponents of Guelleh secured a majority.
"The law stipulates that any case brought to this court concerning the elections must be filed within a period of 10 days after the announcement of provisional results," said Ahmed Ibrahim, president of the Constitutional Council.
The USN filed its complaint a day late, he said.
Djibouti city's mayor, Abdourahman Mohamed Guelleh, a senior opposition figure, said after the council's ruling that "what's essential is that Djiboutians know the victory belonged to USN".
February's vote was the first time the opposition had won any seats during Ismail Omar Guelleh's presidency, a period during which he has effectively controlled a one-party state.
The election was the first contested parliamentary vote since 2003 when Guelleh's party swept all 65 seats in a poll marred by allegations of fraud. The opposition then boycotted the next vote in 2008.
February's contested result lead to several days of anti-government demonstrations in the capital.
On Saturday, a Djibouti court convicted three prominent opposition figures of several charges including inciting violence, sentencing them to 18 months in jail. The prosecutor said he would appeal for a longer jail term.
(Reporting by Abdourahim Arteh; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Jon Hemming)
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