Comoros is witnessing a pivotal moment as citizens head to the polls to determine whether President Azali Assoumani will secure a third consecutive term. Assoumani, in power since 2016, controversially extended his tenure through a constitutional referendum in 2018, eliminating presidential term limits.
Facing a divided opposition, Assoumani is confident in his chances of re-election despite calls for a boycott from some opposition figures. Accusations of jailing opponents and forcing them into exile, along with suspicions of fraud due to late publication of voting lists, have created a tense electoral environment.
The opposition, represented by five candidates against Assoumani, has raised concerns about improper nominations of voting station staff, alleging bias in favor of the ruling party. Opposition leader Latuf Abdou stated, “We are challenging the improper nomination of voting station staffers, who are all supporters of the ruling party.”
Despite potential challenges, outright protests are infrequent on the archipelago’s three islands, and Assoumani’s supporters hope for a repeat of the 2019 ballot when he secured 60% of the vote in the first round.
With nearly 340,000 eligible voters in this predominantly Muslim nation, the economic challenges facing Comoros play a significant role in the election. High poverty rates, emigration to France, and remittances from the diaspora influencing the GDP underscore the economic concerns of the population.
President Assoumani, in his final campaign rally, emphasized the divine aspect of power, stating, “Power is given by God.” Voters, too, express a desire for peace and a focus on addressing unemployment, urging the elected president to attract foreign companies to provide job opportunities for the youth.
The elections also encompass the selection of governors, with provisional results expected as early as Monday, according to the CENI electoral commission. In the event of no clear winner in the presidential race, a second round is scheduled for February 25.
Security measures have been heightened, with the army on standby to address potential disturbances. Civil society groups have pledged to deploy observers at voting stations to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.