afrol News, 2 April - Yesterday's presidential elections in two of the three Comoran islands, Anjouan and Moheli, went along peacefully and assured the continuation of the large-scale constitutional reform in the archipelago. Anjouan voters re-elected their military leader, while Moheli voters will have to go to the ballot for a second time, failing to produce an absolute majority for one candidate.
The 1 April presidential elections in Anjouan and Moheli were part of a large and complex process to create the new Comoro Union, thus ending centralist misrule from Grande Comore, the main island, and secessionism in Anjouan and Moheli. The new Comoro Union provides for great autonomy for all the three islands, each of them having their own constitution, parliament and President - the latter to be elected yesterday.
In Anjouan, Colonel Mohammed Bacar is reported to have won the election in the first round, obtaining over 70 percent of the votes. Colonel Bacar already was the incumbent leader of the island, having leaded separatist Anjouan into negotiations with Grande Comore to end the island's call for independence and create the new Comoro Union. He seized power in a military coup in Anjouan in August 2001, toppling Lieutenant-Colonel Said Abeid, who had taken on dictatorial powers.
Although a military leader, Colonel Bacar has a high credibility in the island, which is tired of the conflicts and international isolation resulting from the 1997 unilateral declaration of independence. When the learnt scientist put the lid on Lieutenant-Colonel Abeid's regime, gradually getting out of control, the Anjouanese population applauded him. His peace efforts managed to put an end to the island's growing concerns, although he had to change independence for autonomy. President Bacar has been elected for a five-year-term.
Moheli, which also had bid for independence but later returned to Comoros, experienced a poll of less clear results. Two candidates - the former Comoro Vice President Mohamed Hassanaly and outgoing Moheli Governor Mohamed Said Fazul - won respectively 27 and 23 percent of the vote. Hassanaly - nicknamed "the old lion" according to PANA - is the favourite for the second poll round, but critics hold he has dominated the island's politics for far too long, being a politician already in the colonial era.
Grande Comore was also due to arrange its second presidential poll round yesterday, but this was called off after voters had turned down the island's draft constitution presented to them in a referendum on 19 March. It remains uncertain whether the same draft will be presented in a new poll or whether changes will be made to the text. Observers had held the population in Grande Comore rejected the constitution because they had not been properly informed about its contents. The constitutions for Anjouan and Moheli were approved by great majority in local referendums.
The presidential elections on Grande Comore thus are indefinitively postponed, also postponing the full implementation of the new Comoro Union as the island's President also is set to be the Union's first President. The presidency then is set to rotate in four-year terms around the three islands, according to the new federal constitution.
The outgoing military ruler of Comoros, Colonel Azali Assoumani, led the first poll round in Grande Comore, held on 17 March. Colonel Assoumani had stepped down from presidency in January to be able to participate in these elections. He obtained 40 percent of the vote. The second poll round originally was scheduled for 14 April.
The former military strongman took power in Grande Comore in a military coup in 1999. He has been avoided by the international community, being a military ruler. Colonel Assoumani has however plaid a key role in achieving reconciliation with the secessionist government of Anjouan island, leading to the establishment of the Comoro Union.
In December last year, 77 percent of all Comorans agreed to a new nationwide constitution, defining the Comoro Union of the three islands, giving each of them great autonomy and replacing the old Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros.
Sources: Based on press reports and afrol archives