Coup-Prone Comoros Holds Peaceful Vote
The Associated Press
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
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
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
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