Muslim Comoros

Coup-Prone Comoros Holds Peaceful Vote

MORONI, Comoros Comorans voted peacefully Sunday in a presidential election they hope will help stabilize the Indian Ocean archipelago after 30 years of coups, assassinations, military rule and attempted secession.
The vote was held a day after a member of Comoros' electoral commission was detained by African Union peacekeepers on suspicion of involvement in fraud that opposition candidates claimed was orchestrated at the Defense Ministry.

The African Union deployed 800 peacekeepers, police officers and civilian staff to monitor voting, while local troops were confined to their barracks. The AU troops, led by South Africa, are to stay until June 9, after the inauguration of the new president.

Voting was extended beyond the official close in some parts of Grande Comore, the main island, because polling stations opened late due to the delayed arrival of voting materials.

Some 310,000 people were registered to vote across the archipelago to choose the successor to President Azali Assoumane, who was barred from re-election. Politicians from the three biggest islands _ Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli _ take turns in holding four-year presidential terms.

Businessman and Muslim cleric Ahmed Abdallah Sambi was widely considered the front-runner against two secular candidates, retired French air force officer Mohamed Djaafari and longtime politician Ibrahim Halidi.

All three pledged to fight corruption, improve the quality of life for the poor, create new jobs and end years of mismanagement in Comoros, which gained independence from France in 1975.

Sambi held himself up as a political newcomer best suited to bring real reform and ethnical leadership while using his business acumen to boost the economy.

Rivals warned that Sambi _ popularly known as "Ayatollah Sambi" because he received theological training in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Iran _ might introduce religious extremism into national politics.

He dismissed those fears, saying Comoros is not ready to become an Islamic republic and pledging not to force anyone to wear a veil.

 

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