Former coup leader elected Comoros president: provisional results

Azali Assoumani (AFP)
Azali Assoumani (AFP)

Mramani -Former coup leader Azali Assoumani was elected as president of Comoros, according to provisional results released on Thursday, after last month's election was partially re-run due to violence and "irregularities".

In the re-run at 13 polling stations, Assoumani beat Vice President Mohamed Ali Soilihi by 2 271 votes to 1 308, the electoral commission said, confirming his narrow victory in April.

Two percent of the electorate were able to vote again Wednesday on Anjouan, one of the three main islands of the archipelago nation set off the east coast of Africa.

Hundreds of people waited in line during the day as armed security forces stood guard to ensure polling was smooth.

Last month, voting on Anjouan was tarnished by broken ballot boxes, interruptions in voting, accusations of ballot stuffing and some incidents of violence.

"I am very satisfied," Assoumani, who was president from 1999 to 2006, told AFP after the provisional count.

Soilihi, who is known as Mamadou, made no immediate comment.

His spokesperson said that his campaign remained confident of securing victory when the Constitutional Court releases the official result.

The provisional result was announced after tear gas was used overnight to disperse some Assoumani supporters.

The country's Chief of Staff Youssouf Idjihadi said the army deployed 200 soldiers on Anjouan.

In Mramani in the island's south, where voting had to be discontinued last month after a crush of voters, soldiers were on duty outside one school where ballots were cast.

Voting passed off without any major incident, according to an AFP journalist.

Assoumani took 40.98% of the nationwide vote in April, just ahead of Soilihi, the ruling party's presidential candidate, who picked up 39.87%.

History of coups

Assoumani first came to power in 1999 after ousting acting president Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde in a coup.

He then won the presidential election three years later, stepping down when his term ended in 2006.

If the result is confirmed, the presidential inauguration is scheduled for May 26.

"I expect concrete benefits for my vote: a decent price for cloves, work for my children and food at affordable prices," said Idrissa Ahmada, a farmer and father of nine before polls closed.

The three islands that make up the Comoros - Anjouan, Grande-Comore and Moheli - have a total population of just under 800 000 people, nearly all of whom are Sunni Muslims.

The fourth island of Mayotte voted against independence and is still governed by France.

Allegations of fraud have beset the election process, and Soilihi rejected the April result.

After the first-round vote in February, 19 of the 25 candidates complained about fraud and demanded a recount that was denied by the courts.

The first round took place only on Grande-Comore island, in line with electoral rules to choose the president on a rotating basis from the three islands.

 The April 10 run-off was nationwide.

Comoros' electoral system was established in 2001 after about 20 coups or attempted takeovers, four of which were successful, in the years following independence from France in 1975.

Assoumani is set to take over from outgoing President Ikililou Dhoinine, who completed his five-year term in office.

Comoros exports vanilla, cloves and ylang-ylang perfume essence, but poverty is widespread.

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