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Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Comoran citizens exercised their voting rights on Sunday in the presidential polls amid a contentious atmosphere, as incumbent President Azali Assoumani expressed confidence in securing victory in the first round.

The Indian Ocean archipelago faced a divided opposition challenging Assoumani, who emphasized the significance of winning the first round to save time and resources. Despite delays in some polling stations in the capital, Gendarmes and police were deployed to ensure a smooth electoral process.

In Ntsoudjini, a stronghold for opposition candidates, voting delays persisted, with candidate Mouigni Baraka Said Soilihi alleging deliberate obstruction by the government in an area known for its fierce opposition to the president. Meanwhile, opposition figures have called for a boycott, citing Assoumani’s extension of his presidency through a controversial 2018 constitutional referendum that eliminated term limits. Accusations of jailing opponents and suspicions of fraud arose, fueled by late publication of voting lists and alleged improper nomination of ruling party supporters as station staffers.

Security measures were heightened on voting day, with civil society groups deploying observers to safeguard the integrity of the ballot. In a predominantly Muslim nation where nearly 340,000 people are eligible to vote, concerns over potential unrest prompted the military to stand ready. Despite these tensions, outright protests are infrequent, and Assoumani’s supporters hope for a repeat of the 2019 ballot, where he secured a first-round victory with 60 percent of the vote.

Comoros, which declared independence from France in 1975, faces economic challenges with 45 percent of its approximately 900,000 population living below the poverty line. The diaspora, constituting nearly 20 percent of the archipelago’s GDP in 2022, remains disenfranchised despite promises. While some Comorans expressed gratitude for the opportunity to vote, concerns linger over allegations of political repression and fraud. Provisional results from the election may be available as early as Monday, with a potential second round scheduled for February 25 if no candidate secures an outright victory.

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