Comoros to hold presidential vote on January 14Wed, 04 Oct 2023 14:58:14 GMT

The Comoros said on Wednesday it will hold presidential elections on January 14, where its controversial head of state, Azali Assoumani, will seek to cement his rule.Voters in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of some 900,000 people will also be called to elect local governors, according to a presidential decree. “The election of the president of the Union of the Comoros and those of the governors of the autonomous islands… will take place on January 14, 2024,” the decree read. Assoumani, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the African Union, is seeking another five-year term amid a possible opposition boycott. A former army chief-of-staff, the 64-year-old came to power in a 1999 coup. After retiring from politics in 2006, he returned 10 years later, winning a vote marred by violence and allegations of irregularities. In 2019, he won another contested election after persuading Comorans to vote in a controversial referendum to support the extension of presidential terms from one five-year term to two. Since then, critics have accused him of creeping authoritarianism. Many of his opponents have been arrested or have gone into exile. The largest opposition group, which is suffering from internal divisions, has threatened to stay away from the election if some conditions, including the release of what it says are political prisoners are not met. “We will not participate in yet another electoral charade,” said Mohamed Ali Soilihi, the leader of the Enlarged Common Front coalition, said last month. Soilihi, who was the runner-up in 2016, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in jail in a treason trial last year and currently lives in France.A former French archipelago of three islands located northwest of Mozambique, the Comoros has endured years of political turmoil.Since independence in 1975, the country has seen more than 20 attempted coups, four of which were successful.If no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote in January, a run-off is scheduled for February 25.