Confident Comoros president rallies supporters ahead of voteFri, 12 Jan 2024 19:14:00 GMT

Thousands of people turned out on Friday for the last campaign rally of Comoran President Azali Assoumani, who looks poised to win re-election on Sunday against a divided opposition.Nearly 340,000 people are eligible to vote in the predominantly Muslim Indian Ocean archipelago with a population of under a million — nearly half living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.”Power is given by God,” Assoumani, wearing a cap, told a crowd of supporters decked out in his party’s blue colours at a stadium in the capital. “The rain is a blessing,” he said, from beneath a marquee.”If we lose we will eat gravel,” chanted a group of young people. Azali’s supporters are hoping for a repeat of the 2019 ballot, when he was elected in the first round with 60 percent of the vote. “Azali, architect of the Comoros of tomorrow” read one of the many campaign posters plastered across the country.Several opposition figures have urged voters to boycott the ballot, in which five candidates are standing against 65-year-old Assoumani for the top job.A state company employee told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity, that he was attending the rally “following pressure from his superiors”. Mohamed Moussa Moudjahid, a bank worker donning a scarf bearing the president’s image said he hoped the vote would take place in a “transparent manner”.Since first winning re-election in 2016, former army chief-of-staff colonel Assoumani — who currently holds the rotating chair of the African Union — has thrown opponents in jail or forced them into exile.Amid fears of fraud, the opposition has already complained of irregularities with electoral lists, which have not yet been published.”Azali thanks you, you have proven through your mobilisation that he is the next president,” Assoumani’s campaign director, Houmed Msaidie, told supporters.”Those who cry fraud must sing another song.”Ali Mmadi, a supporter for opposition candidate Salim Issa Abdillah, of the Juwa party, was not convinced. “When you are popular, you don’t pay people to come to your rallies,” he said. Results were expected within a few days after the vote. If no candidate wins outright, a second round is set for February 25.