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Djibouti approves 3rd term for president

DJIBOUTI, Apr 19 – Djibouti\’s parliament on Monday approved a constitutional amendment allowing President Ismael Omar Guelleh to run for a third term.

The 59 parliamentarians present spent one and a half hours studying the amendment before unanimously adopting it. It had already been adopted at its first reading April 14.

"The procedure is that the bill should be adopted at its first reading by the Assembly," the speaker of the National Assembly, Idriss Arnaoud Ali, told AFP.

"Thereafter the president of the republic can either decide to hold a referendum to validate the constitutional amendment or he can ask members of parliament to examine the law a second time, in which case it must be passed by two thirds of them," he explained.

"It is the population who have repeatedly demonstrated in favour of this amendment and we received a mountain of petitions where the people wanted the president to be able to continue with the reforms he launched, notably the fight against poverty and the development of the energy sector," Arnaoud said.

During the reading of the bill several thousand demonstrators in favour of the constitutional amendment had gathered in town where they chanted the initials of the president, who has not yet announced his intention to run as a candidate.

The banners they held read "Ismael Omar Guelleh, the people want you to stay on" or "Our future with Ismael Omar Guelleh!".

Once the reading was over the parliamentarians and Prime Minister Dileita Mohamed Dileita received a standing ovation when they announced to the assembled crowd that the amendment has been passed.

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The opposition, who boycotted the last legislative elections in 2008, has no seats in parliament.

The constitutional amendment, in addition to abolishing the two-term maximum, sets an age limit of 75 for presidential candidates and shortens the mandate to five years from six.

In all 14 amendments were adopted, among them the outlawing of the death penalty and the creation of a senate.

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