Will the announcement be followed, like the previous week, by riots supported by opponents of President Azali Assoumani? On Wednesday January 24, ten days after the presidential election, the judges of the Supreme Court validated the re-election of the outgoing leader in the first round. The former colonel, at the head of the Comoros since 2016, obtained 57.2% of the votes and a new five-year mandate. A victory rejected “en bloc” by the opposition.

The final results contrast with the provisional figures delivered on Tuesday January 16 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), which had designated Azali Assoumani the winner with 62.9% and put forward a surprising participation rate of 16.3% – corrected this Wednesday at 56.44%. This unlikely figure set fire to the streets of the capital Moroni, the scene of clashes on Wednesday January 17 and Thursday January 18.

On Saturday January 20, three opposition candidates brought appeals to the Supreme Court to rectify the results which they describe as an “electoral masquerade”. This Wednesday, the body “rejected [these] requests to cancel the vote”. The five candidates, who enjoyed immunity during the campaign but could now be arrested by law enforcement, were not present during the hearing.

After being shaken by two days of riots, Moroni was calm on Wednesday. “Everyone stayed at home and is waiting for the results,” confides a diplomat present on site. People are afraid” that the judges’ decision will cause a new wave of violence, which has already left one person dead last week and paralyzed the archipelago for seventy-two hours. “It is absolutely necessary that the final results be as transparent and detailed as possible at the risk of creating new riots,” he continues.

Many irregularities

The five opposition candidates said they feared, Wednesday morning, “that [the] country would be taken hostage” by the President of the Republic. In a joint statement, they reiterated their demand for the cancellation of the elections and the holding of a new vote, citing “the voice of the people”, in other words demonstrations if these demands were refused.

The re-election of Azali Assoumani is going all the less well as the candidates of the presidential party in the elections for the post of governor of the three islands of the archipelago also passed in the first round. A “Gwa Ndzima” (“in one go” in the Shikomori language) that the presidential camp had promised for a long time and in which the opposition sees “gross” manipulation.

Like the previous election in 2019, the elections were marred by numerous irregularities, such as ballot stuffing, the intervention of the army in polling stations and the lack of transparency in the compilation of results. The opposition points to the lack of independence of national institutions, first and foremost the CENI, almost all of whose members were appointed by the presidential party, as were the judges of the Supreme Court. Two magistrates, in charge of the electoral process within the body, were dismissed a few weeks before the election.

The Comorian president, also current president of the African Union, is now doing everything to avoid further post-electoral unrest. The police, whose members are often hooded, have strengthened their presence in the capital Moroni as well as on the island of Anjouan, traditionally supported by the opposition. On the morning of Wednesday, the police dispersed a gathering of “great notables”, Comorian wise men, in Moroni.

Arbitrary detentions

“There will probably be unrest in Anjouan, but only some sporadic action on the island of Grande Comore,” suggests, on condition of anonymity, a former minister now on the opposition side. Last week, the riots ended, according to Comorian journalists, after the distribution in several districts of the capital of large sums of money by the government to the leaders of the revolt.

Moreover, the repression saw the arrest of more than two hundred demonstrators in Moroni. “They are detained arbitrarily” in a military barracks south of the city, says Mohamed Daoud alias “Kiki”, the Orange party candidate, who came in third place. While none of the candidates is behind bars, around ten of their close collaborators were arrested, without cause, by the police. While the lifting of their immunity raises fears of their arrest, Moussa Ibrahim, independent candidate for governor of Grande Comore, has just been arrested.

“Pre-trial detention cannot exceed 48 hours. These arrests are de facto illegal. On the island of Anjouan, Saïd Ali Ibouroi, an opinion leader with a large following on Facebook, was arrested by the authorities twelve days ago,” says Fahmi Saïd Ibrahim, a former minister of justice. According to Ibrahim Abdourazak, coordinator of the opposition front, “the objective was to intimidate the protesters before the validation of the Supreme Court”.