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26.03.2019 Africa

Comoros President Azali Re-Elected In A Landslide

By Aboubacar M'CHANGAMA and Philippe ALFROY
Azali Assoumani staged the poll after Comorans voted in a referendum, boycotted by the opposition, to support the extension of presidential mandates from one five-year term to two.  By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP)
MAR 26, 2019 AFRICA
Azali Assoumani staged the poll after Comorans voted in a referendum, boycotted by the opposition, to support the extension of presidential mandates from one five-year term to two. By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP)

Comoros President Azali Assoumani was re-elected Tuesday by a landslide, according to results published by the electoral commission, in a divisive poll that has sparked tensions and opposition accusations of fraud in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Azali, who first took office in 2016, was credited with 60.77 percent of the vote following Sunday's election, far ahead of his closest rival Mahamoudou Ahamada, who garnered only 14.62 percent, results showed.

The 66-year-old president had been tipped to return to power in the island nation of 800,000 people, which is one of the world's poorest and most unstable states.

Counting was marred by tensions, with authorities violently breaking up an opposition protest on Monday.

Azali was credited with 60.77 percent of the vote following Sunday's election. By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP/File) Azali was credited with 60.77 percent of the vote following Sunday's election. By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP/File)

Twelve people were injured as police fired teargas and rubber bullets at opposition candidates and supporters as they marched through the capital Moroni protesting alleged irregularities.

The opposition allege that irregularities at several polling stations reported by the electoral commission on Sunday amounted to a "coup d'etat" and called for public "resistance".

Ahamada, of the main opposition Juwa party, rejected the results saying "we are facing a military coup d'etat through a presidential election".

"We call on the international community not to recognise the re-election of Azali."

Police take away a plainclothes policeman injured in Monday's clashes. By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP) Police take away a plainclothes policeman injured in Monday's clashes. By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP)

Some 300,000 voters were eligible to vote in the Indian Ocean archipelago, which has a two-round system for electing the president.

Azali's campaign director Houmed Msaidie described opposition claims of election fraud as "pathetic", accusing them of creating "a climate of panic to invalidate the electoral process".

"If there was fraud, they should go to the appropriate authorities," he told AFP.

"We are happy to have won in the first round," Msaidie added.

"Now we will do everything we can to stabilise the situation and revive economic development, which is the people's main concern."

Soldiers deployed

The Supreme Court barred some of Azali's major rivals, including former president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, accused of corruption, from running.

Heavily-armed soldiers were deployed to several key locations in the capital Tuesday with orders to prevent unrest.

After Monday's protests were quashed Interior Minister Mohamed "Kiki" Daoudou alleged that Ahamada and his allies "want to create disorder in Moroni".

Map of the Comoros Islands. By Kun TIAN (AFP) Map of the Comoros Islands. By Kun TIAN (AFP)

"We will do everything necessary to guarantee the peace and stability of the country," he told AFP.

An electoral commission official told AFP on Sunday that a dozen booths had been vandalised during polling.

Those incidents were seized upon by the opposition who alleged election irregularities.

At a media briefing on Tuesday before results were announced, Ahamada said his party "utterly" rejected the vote.

"The most sensible solution would be to organise elections worthy of a civilised country as soon as possible," he said.

Observer concerns

The country rotates its presidency between its islands of Anjouan, Grande-Comore and Moheli.

In Anjouan island, which is mostly hostile to Grande Comore native Azali, the opposition reported an array of irregularities.

Made up of the islands of Anjouan, Grande-Comore and Moheli, the small country has a population of nearly 814,000. By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP) Made up of the islands of Anjouan, Grande-Comore and Moheli, the small country has a population of nearly 814,000. By GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (AFP)

Witnesses said several stuffed ballot boxes were found on the island.

Some opposition poll monitors were also prevented from carrying out their duties, they added.

Official observers were also critical of the poll.

"(We) condemn the incidents witnessed which meant voters were unable to exercise their civic right in conditions of calm," said a joint statement issued by observers from the African Union, the Comesa east and southern African bloc, and the Eastern Africa Standby Force.

There have been more than 20 attempted or successful power grabs in the mainly Muslim nation since independence from France in 1975.

Azali staged the poll after Comorans voted in a referendum, boycotted by the opposition, to support the extension of the rotating presidential mandates from one five-year term to two.

The change upset a fragile balance of power established in 2001 that sought to end separatist crises on Anjouan and Moheli, and halt the cycle of coups.

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