As a man experienced by fifteen years in power, the President of the Union of the Comoros, Azali Assoumani, seems to have decided to repeat the scenario of his re-election in 2019. The conduct of the presidential election, Sunday January 14, where 340,000 voters were called at the polls, was, like five years earlier, marked by an accumulation of fraud, according to the opposition.

“There was no election,” accused candidate Mouigni Baraka before the end of the vote, in a joint statement to the five opponents. Irregularities were reported on the three islands of the archipelago before the close of business. Several videos posted on social networks show ballot stuffing. One case even took place under the eyes of a team of international observers, in the north of the island of Grande Comore. Candidate Mouigni Baraka also denounced fraud where “the army picked up ballot boxes and brought them to the barracks of the national gendarmerie, in several localities, especially on the island of Anjouan”, where there are more than a third of voters

It was on this island that at midday, another opposition candidate, the former Minister of the Interior, Mohamed Daoud Kiki, intercepted a military truck carrying around ten ballot boxes. “Soldiers interrupted the vote, it’s unacceptable,” he protested, in the middle of the road, in the village of Mramani, in front of a roadblock set up by his supporters. These few ballot boxes were finally returned to the polling stations.

“If we win in the first round, we save time and money”

All of these denunciations hardly seem to embarrass the outgoing president, Azali Assoumani, who shows his confidence in a victory in the first round, as in 2019. “It is God who will decide and the Comorian people. If we win in the first round, we save time and money,” he said at the time of the vote, while rejoicing at “the anchoring of democracy” in his country.

His camp, however, took charge of counterattacking on his behalf. “There cannot be ballot stuffing,” asserts Houmed Msaidie, the government spokesperson, warning at the same time that “the State will not let the thugs of the opposition” who intend to gather to contest the vote. In 2019, three deaths were recorded after the deployment of security forces.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) for its part welcomed a vote which took place, “in calm and transparency, a guarantee of credibility and confidence. » But the anomalies in the electoral process began well before the vote, relates a foreign observer on condition of anonymity, pointing in particular to a “double standard” in the granting of authorizations to observe the election.

Opposition candidates, for example, had to wait until the last moment to be able to accredit their assessors. A slowness which, however, was spared by the Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros (CRC), the party of Azali Assoumani. The presidents of polling stations, all from the CRC, did not in certain cases prevent the expulsion of opposition assessors, in particular during the counting.

“We know very well that in the end, it is Azali who will win”

As for the majority of civil society observers, they were unable to carry out their mission due to lack of accreditations. However, they had demanded them weeks earlier, with the support of the European Union. “Generally speaking, the problems are concentrated within the CENI. She is neither incompetent nor negligent, she just lacks partiality,” said Fahardin Amada, responsible for monitoring the vote for the Comoros Election Observatory (Obselec).

In this context, Moroni seemed on Sunday to have largely opted for abstention. In the Coulée district, in the north of the capital, by mid-morning, the queue in front of the bakery exceeded that in front of the polling station. “I’m coming to get my bread, I don’t want to participate in the idhihaka (the masquerade in the Shikomori language),” says Aboubakar, surrounded by around ten other abstainers.

Abi, a young baker, does not intend to leave his ovens to go to the polls. “I don’t vote. It’s not for lack of hope but it’s because vote or not vote, we know very well that in the end, it’s Azali who will win,” he explains. He awaits, without excitement, the provisional results which must be communicated from Monday. A second round, scheduled for February 25, would be the only antidote to his resignation, the opposition having promised to ally, if necessary, behind a single candidate. An eventuality for which Azali Assoumani does not seem to have prepared.