Incumbent leader Guelleh has promised not to seek a fourth term in office if he wins a third one in Friday's poll [AFP]

Djiboutians are heading to the polls, with President Ismael Omar Guelleh expected to secure a third term amid an opposition boycott.

Voters in the small Horn of Africa country have a choice of Guelleh or his lone challenger, former constitutional council head Mohamed Warsama Ragueh.

The main opposition Union for Democratic Change and Union of Democratic Movements are boycotting Friday's vote after they failed to find a joint candidate and because they dispute the independence of the election authority.

They have also criticised parliament's decision last year to change the constitution to enable 63-year-old Guelleh to run for a third term after being in power since 1999.

In February, Djibouti was rocked by its largest street protests since independence in 1977 when thousands of youths took to the streets demanding Guelleh, "the dictator", quit. The rallies led to clashes with the security forces that left two people dead according to official numbers.

The president promised on Thursday that he will not seek a fourth term in office if he wins another five-year term.

About 150,000 people are eligible to vote out of about 860,000 inhabitants. The country is largely desert and more than half of the population live in the capital.

The ex-French colony, situated on one of the world's busiest shipping routes where the Red Sea joins the Gulf of Aden, hosts the only US military base in Africa and the largest overseas French army base.

Source: AFP