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Comoros opposition forms parallel transition body to unseat president



Opposition presidential candidates in the Comoros have set up what they call a transitional council whose aim is to unseat President Azali Assoumani, who has been declared the winner in an election that observers said lacked credibility.

On Tuesday, the CENI electoral body in the Indian Ocean island nation said Assoumani had won 60.77 percent in Sunday’s vote, followed by Ahamada Mahamoudou, one of 12 opposition candidates, with 14.62 percent.

Assoumani’s victory with more than 50 percent of the vote ensured he avoided a second round against a single opponent.

The 12 opposition candidates said they had set up a National Transition Council, chaired by one of them, Mohamed Soilihi.

“The mission of the National Transitional Council is to resolve the post-election crisis, to ensure a peaceful transition, to preserve peace, stability and national cohesion in our country,” Soilihi said in a statement broadcast on private-owned radio stations and social media platforms.

But the candidates also set an April 3 deadline for the vote to be invalidated or they would call for civil disobedience.

 “If the … vote is not invalidated … we ask you (Comoros public) on April 4 to disobey civilly and keep away from all economic activity, and not to use any telephone communication,” Soilihi said.

Observers from the African Union, the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa and the African Standby Forces of the East said the voting process was riddled with irregularities that led them to conclude it lacked credibility or transparency.

Assoumani said on Tuesday that anyone wishing to contest the results should do so via legal means.

“I hope that those that are contesting the results will follow the legal channels and wait for the final results to be announced by the Supreme Court,” he told Reuters.

 Authorities shut down a local newspaper La Gazette for publishing a story about the proposed transition council. The legal grounds for the closure were not immediately clear.

The Comoros presidency is traditionally rotated among leaders from the three main islands of the archipelago. Assoumani, a former army officer, first came to power in a coup in 1999 and won elections in 2002 and 2016.

About 60 women leaders who had marched to the Supreme Court to deliver a letter asking it not to validate the results were dispersed by police and six of them arrested.

They carried banners that denounced the heads of the military, the electoral commission and the supreme court as being “accomplices of a coup d’etat”.

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