Comoros President Assoumani seeks fourth term in January 13 election

Assoumani, 65, will face five competitors in Sunday’s election.

Comoros' President Azali Assoumani
Comoros's President Azali Assoumani gestures during an interview with Reuters in Paris, France, December 1, 2019 [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

Comoros will vote in an election on Sunday that is expected to deliver a fourth term to President Azali Assoumani, a former military officer whose opponents accuse him of muzzling dissent in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.

Nearly 340,000 people are eligible to vote in the country of fewer than one million people.

Assoumani, 65, who held the rotating chairperson role of the African Union for the past year, will face five competitors. Other opposition leaders have called for a boycott, accusing the electoral commission of favouring the ruling party.

The electoral commission has denied this and said the election will be transparent.

Regional observer missions, including from the African Union, said the last election in 2019 was riddled with irregularities and lacked credibility.

The earlier vote followed constitutional reforms that removed a requirement that the presidency rotate among the country’s three main islands every five years, and thus allowed Assoumani to seek re-election. The changes sparked months of sometimes violent protests.

The Comoros Islands – Anjouan, Grande Comore, and Moheli – have endured years of grinding poverty and political turmoil, including about 20 coups or attempted coups, since independence from France in 1975. The country is a major source of irregular migration to the nearby French island of Mayotte, which was historically part of the Comoros.

Under the new system, Assoumani, who first took power in a 1999 coup before stepping down in 2002 and then winning election 14 years later, would be required to step down in 2029.

Since 2019, Assoumani’s government has cracked down on dissent, critics say. Former President Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, who was in office between 2006 and 2011, was sentenced to life in prison in November 2022 for high treason related to corruption allegations. At the time of his sentencing, he had already spent four years in detention.

Political protests have been repeatedly banned for security reasons.

“Democracy only exists in the lying discourses of Azali,” said the main opposition leader, Mohamed Ali Soilihi, who lives in exile in France and has called for an election boycott.

Assoumani denies that anyone is prosecuted for political reasons and has vowed the election will go ahead successfully despite the boycott calls.

“Those who don’t want the elections to take place have two options: stay at home or leave the country,” he told reporters this week.

On the campaign trail, he has touted the construction of roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure during his tenure.

Source: News Agencies