President’s son seen as Comoros leader in waitingMon, 14 Aug 2023 05:57:52 GMT

Young and ambitious, the son of Comoros President Azali Assoumani has all the trappings of a leader in waiting.As the ruling party of the small Indian Ocean archipelago gathered to appoint a new secretary general at the weekend, many thought the top job would go to Nour El Fath Azali, 39.Azali himself — currently a private adviser to his father — seemed open to taking on a bigger role. “If the party asks me, I will accept its decision,” Azali told AFP on the sidelines of the event in the capital Moroni, wearing a white shirt and a blue cap with the ruling party logo.The Convention for the Renewal of the Comoros (CRC) eventually handed another term to incumbent secretary Youssoufa Mohamed Ali, a veteran politician. And with his father looking to remain in power for another five-year term after elections next year, some believe Azali’s anointment might have only been postponed.Azali, who describes himself as a “perfectionist”, has enjoyed a growing public presence since his father, currently the head of the African Union, won a disputed election in 2019.As a presidential adviser he is often seen alongside ministers at televised press conferences, and was the driving force behind the CRC’s congress held at a Moroni hotel, where he cut a busy figure. Given the Comoros’s turbulent history and what critics say are Assoumani’s authoritarian tendencies, many believe he is poised to take over the reins of the small country of less than a million people.- ‘Paper tiger’ -“My dearest wish is to see young people… take ownership of politics,” said government spokesman Houmed Msaidie, in what sounded like an endorsement.”Nour El Fath Azali is a true leader, a visionary,” said Soilihi Mohamed Djounaid, a prominent CRC member who heads a state-owned energy company.Assoumani, 64, a former army chief-of-staff, came to power in a 1999 coup. After retiring from politics in 2006 he returned with a bang 10 years later, winning a vote marred by violence and allegations of irregularities. In 2019, he staged another round of elections after persuading Comorans to vote in a controversial referendum to support the extension of presidential terms from one five-year term to two. It was then that Azali, a shy father-of-three with an MBA in international finance obtained in the United States, who previously worked in a bank, emerged from relative obscurity. Yet his rise has not pleased everyone. A CRC insider who asked for anonymity described Azali as “arrogant”, accusing him of taking no prisoners in his quest for power.  “He’s applying a scorched-earth strategy, trying to eliminate his father’s supporters from the political arena,” the insider said. “The CRC is a paper tiger plagued by deep internal divisions. This doesn’t bode well with just a few months to go before the presidential election.”Achmet Said Mohamed, a 2019 presidential candidate who recently returned to the Comoros after four years in self-imposed exile, said Azali’s ascent was telling of the state of democracy in the Comoros. “He just has the golden parachute of his dictator father. This is a fairly common phenomenon common to all dictatorships,” he said.Assoumani is widely expected to run for another term next year, with the first round of voting scheduled for January.