As the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros gears up for March 24 presidential elections, many expect foul-play from incumbent President Azali Assoumani.
On the eve of the controversial presidential elections in the coup-prone Comoros this weekend, the Union of Opposition Alliance is committed to put up a brave fight with a united front against the incumbent president and deploy surveillance committees to oversee the balloting in their
The Union of Opposition Alliance is fielding 12 candidates to fight against Azali in the first round of the presidential elections scheduled for March 24. If no candidate garners more than 50 per cent of the vote, a second round will take place in April.
President Azali Assoumani is running for a second consecutive term after he won a controversial referendum in July that extended term limits and abolished the system of rotating power between the three main islands. Since the referendum and the announcement of the elections, opposition party leaders, media persons and human rights activists have been arrested or forced to leave the country.
Azali’s chief rivals – former vice-president Mohamed Ali Soilihi and Ibrahim Mohamed Soule – saw their bids for the top job quashed by the Supreme Court, which is composed exclusively of Azali’s allies. Key opposition candidates supported by parties that could block Azali have been meticulously eliminated.
Because of the prevalent climate of fear and suppression in the islands, all opposition candidates have joined hands and at a meeting attended by over 20,000 supporters in the capital Moroni, they swore to back the opposition candidate who will make it to the second round against Azali.
“They have signed a pledge to ask the international community to safeguard the elections. They have adopted as slogan: “All except Azali”. Their determination is rock solid, “ said, Adinani Youssouf, human rights activist and opposition alliance supporter.
“Even though the government of Azali uses all kinds of subterfuges to prevent the opposition from meeting, their gatherings, especially those of the candidate of the JUWA party Maitre Mahamoud Ahamada draws tens of thousands of people each time. At Mutsamudu (hometown of former President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi) in Anjouan recently, over 30,000 people gathered to support him,” Youssouf revealed.
To fight back and prevent vote tampering, the opposition is setting up surveillance committees in all neighbourhoods and their respective polling stations. “The committee will monitor voting operations and processes at polling stations in their neighbourhoods. They will collect evidence by taking photos and update the results centrally, which will then be shared with the public.”
Meanwhile, multilateral organisations including African Union and SADC have confirmed that they are sending election observer teams.
“The African Union is attentive and is monitoring and, is applying the preventive diplomacy process with other actors. I was in New York recently, and we also had discussions with the United Nations. We are also having discussion with the International Organization of the Francophonie, and we’re looking into engaging SADC so that together we can be on the same page to ensure that we are not heading for a crisis. That is where we stand regarding the elections,” said Ambassador Minata Samate Cessouma, AU Commissioner, Department of Political Affairs.