Presidential election in the Comoros: while awaiting the results, denunciations of fraud are piling up

The stormy weather forecast over the Comoros is not only linked to the winds from Cyclone Belal which hits the Indian Ocean

Presidential election in the Comoros: while awaiting the results, denunciations of fraud are piling up

The stormy weather forecast over the Comoros is not only linked to the winds from Cyclone Belal which hits the Indian Ocean. The archipelago of nearly a million inhabitants elected its president and the governors of the three islands on Sunday January 14. The provisional results, supposed to be announced Monday evening, are slow in coming. Voters await the first estimates in a tense atmosphere, against a backdrop of accusations of electoral fraud.

On Monday, the provisional results of the elections for the governors of Mohéli and Anjouan, combined with the presidential election, ignited the powder. The candidates of the Alliance of the Presidential Movement (AMP), the camp of the outgoing president, Azali Assoumani, were elected in the first round, causing an outcry in the two islands.

In Mohéli, dams were erected near the town of Fomboni. And Anjouan, which represents more than a third of voters and is renowned for its opposition to the head of state, was the scene of several rallies on Monday evening. The gendarmes deployed in the capital, Mutsamudu, dispersed the crowd using tear gas, particularly around the headquarters of the Juwa party (opposition).

The Nioumakélé region, in the south of the island, is close to boiling point. Monday at dawn, following several attempts at fraud denounced by the opposition during the vote, young people set fire to a gendarmerie, a town hall and a school in the town of Mrémani. The roads are closed to avoid the deployment of law enforcement, according to several sources on site. “We fear excesses after the results,” declares, on condition of anonymity, a resident of the neighboring town of Domoni, known to be the departure point for numerous kwassa kwassa (boats) heading to Mayotte.

Since Sunday, the archipelago has been under tension. Even before the end of the vote, the five opposition candidates questioned the conduct of the vote in a joint declaration. “There was no election on January 14, 2024,” they accuse. The army collected ballot boxes and took them to the barracks of the national gendarmerie in several localities, especially on the island of Anjouan. »

Observers deprived of accreditation

An opposition stronghold, Anjouan is at the heart of controversies, particularly since the interception of a military truck transporting ballot boxes on Sunday noon by the candidate of the Orange party, Mohamed Daoud alias “Kiki”. In several localities on the island, "the gendarmes played the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission [CENI] and gave instructions to the members of the polling stations", notes a foreign observer present on the spot, preferring to remain silent about his identity and that of its organization.

Likewise, the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF), which had an observation mission, pointed out several breaches of electoral rules. “The police were present in the centers visited […] some intervened in the conduct and counting of the vote,” states the OIF report published Tuesday. President Assoumani – whose son is the commander of the gendarmerie group on the island of Grande Comore – had nevertheless promised the neutrality of the police during the election.

The African Union (AU), around sixty observers of which crisscrossed the archipelago on Sunday, indicates that the elections took place in a “peaceful climate” and “are generally satisfactory”. The AU does not comment on the blocking of civil society accreditations by the CENI. More than a hundred observers were deprived of accreditation, without explanation from the authorities, who also refused access to polling stations to electoral experts from the European Union (EU).

On Tuesday, processing and compilation of results continued in the capital, Moroni. The People's Palace, where the CENI headquarters are located, is however inaccessible to international media and representatives of opposition parties. “I was forbidden from asking for explanations about the results processing software and the compilation center,” complains Salim Issa Abdillah, the Juwa party candidate. According to a member of the government, access to the results compilation room is even prohibited to certain CENI commissioners.

The Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros (CRC), the ruling party, warned through government spokesperson Houmed Msaidie that the excesses of the opposition “would not be tolerated”. Mr. Msaidie has already announced that according to the presidential party's count, Azali Assoumani would be re-elected with 57% of the vote. An election from the first round in which the strong man of Moroni made his objective, thus avoiding an alliance of opposition candidates in the second round.