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Comoros court confirms president’s reelection, opposition cries foul

By AFP - Jan 24,2024 - Last updated at Jan 24,2024

Incumbent Comoros President and presidential candidate for the Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros Party, Azali Assoumani, casts his ballot at the Mitsudje public school polling station in Moroni on January 14 (AFP photo)

MORONI, Comoros — The Comoros’ supreme court on Wednesday confirmed the re-election of President Azali Assoumani, whose victory in a disputed vote last week was followed by deadly protests.

Rafik Mohamed, president of the court’s constitutional and electoral section, said Assoumani had won with 57.2 per cent of the vote, revising the victor’s previous score downwards slightly while greatly boosting a strangely-low turnout figure.

“There are grounds to declare him elected in the first round,” Mohamed told a press conference.

Opposition leaders rejected the results, describing the vote as fraudulent, but the court dismissed as inadmissible lawsuits seeking its annulment.

“We will not endorse fraud,” Aboudou Soefo, a defeated opposition challenger, told AFP. “We will mobilise.” 

Assoumani declined to comment. 

“I will speak tomorrow,” he told reporters at a hotel in the south of the capital, Moroni, where supporters gathered to celebrate the win. 

Last week, after the vote, Moroni was paralysed by two days of running street battles between stone-throwing youths and armed soldiers. 

At least one person was fatally wounded, according to medics.

The opposition had pointed to the unexpectedly low 16 per cent turnout figure in the presidential vote initially announced by the electoral commission as evidence that something was amiss. 

The figure was far short of that for governor polls the same day.

According to the original electoral commission tally, 189,497 Comorans voted to choose governors for each of the three islands in the archipelago, but only 55,258 cast a vote for president.

 

‘Long and tumultuous’ 

 

But on Wednesday the supreme court released new figures saying 191,297 people — 56 per cent of registered voters — had cast their ballot in the presidential race.

It was not immediately clear how the adjustment came about.

“Democracy is in mourning and the peace and stability of the country is seriously affected,” said Daoudou Abdallah Mohamed, a former interior minister and a candidate from the Orange opposition party. “I do not recognise these results.”

In a joint statement, the five defeated opposition challengers denounced what they called a “dictatorial drift” that they said had brought the Supreme Court to heel. 

They denounced vote-tampering, “massive fraud” and an “electoral charade”.

Last Friday, the US embassy in Moroni expressed concern about the results and urged the electoral commission to “clarify” them.

France, which was the islands’ colonial power until independence in 1975, also expressed concern, urging “all Comoran actors to favour restraint and dialogue”.

Interior Minister Fakridine Mahamoud described the process as “long and tumultuous”. “It’s normal there was competition,” he said after the final tally was announced. 

Assoumani, a 65-year-old former military ruler turned civilian president, has previously dismissed the concerns.

A former army chief-of-staff, Col. Assoumani initially came to power in a coup in 1999, before handing over to civilians in 2006. 

He returned to politics and won relection in 2016 in a vote marred by violence and allegations of irregularities.

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