COMOROS: Assoumani suffers setback in national assembly poll

Johannesburg, 28 April 2004 (IRIN) - Federal President Azali Assoumani suffered a setback in parliamentary elections held at the weekend when parties aligned to the archipelego's three regional presidents gained the majority of seats in the national assembly.

Following run-off elections for the federal assembly on Sunday, supporters of the presidents of the three semi-autonomous islands hold 12 of the 18 elected seats in parliament, against six for the federal president's party.

In the first round of voting, on 18 April, Assoumani's party won two seats, while eight other seats were split among opposition parties on the three islands - Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan. No candidate won a majority in the race for the remaining eight seats and a runoff was scheduled.

Under a February 2001 agreement aimed at bringing stability to the coup-prone country, brokered by the Organisation for African Unity, each of the islands have their own president and legislature. In addition a federal president and parliament sit on the largest island Grande Comore.

In last month's elections for local assemblies on each of the country's three islands, federal president Assoumani's supporters ended up with just 10 seats out of a total of 55.

"We would have liked to have done better overall, but the results are unlikely to affect President Assoumani's power or influence in the running of the country. These elections were not a popularity contest, but a way of consolidating our democracy and bringing stability. It has been a long process and everything went well. We can now move forward to uniting the nation," Assoumani's spokesman, Houmed M'Saidie, told IRIN.

Local political analyst Abdorahim Said Bacar said Assoumani's defeat at the polls was likely to weaken the central government, but he would still retain the federal presidency under the three-year rotating system for holding the office.

Regional presidents, especially Grande Comore President Abdou Elbak, have accused Assoumani of riding roughshod over the OAU-brokered agreement and have lobbied for greater autonomy for the government of individual islands.

"There are fears that those who support greater autonomy will dominate the federal assembly and put the interest of their own island first, rather than considering what is good for the whole country. There are also tendencies, especially in Grande Comore and Anjouan, to undertake policy decisions unilaterally," Bacar told IRIN.

M'Saidie was more optimistic about future relations between the local government and the federal authorities. "All the leaders have promised to work together for the improvement of the country. We hope that we will see also an improvement in relations between President Assoumani and President Elbak," he said.

Because they hold the majority, each of the three regional presidents will now appoint five legislators to complete the 33-member federal parliament, bringing their total seats to 27, as against six for Assoumani's party.

The federal parliamentary elections were the last in a series of polls held to establish a new government in Comoros, a country that has endured more than 20 coups since independence from France in 1975.

Theme (s): Governance,


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