afrol News, 26 May - The mandate of Comoros President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi ended today, and only a controversial prolongation of his mandate, which is not accepted by opposition and the island of Moheli, assures his continued rule.
The current political crisis emerged in Comoros as President Sambi last year prolonged his term in power by one year in a constitutional referendum. The move broke with a complicated power-sharing deal from 2001 between the Comoros Union presidency and the archipelagos' three autonomous islands.
According to the 2001 deal, union presidents are elected from each of the three islands in a rotation system for one four-year term each. The first union president transferred powers to Mr Sambi in 2006. President Sambi's term ends today, according to the original scheme of the power-sharing deal, and by now a union president should have been elected from the island of Moheli.
The constitutional change, extending Mr Sambi's term, was made amidst loud protests from the island government of Moheli. Also several opposition forces on the other two islands, Grande Comore and Anjouan, have strongly questioned the legitimacy of the constitutional referendum, saying the change also should have been approved by each one of the union's three islands.
Moheli islanders are demanding their turn at the presidency and protest marches have been growing in scale and intensity on the island during the last months.
The Mohelian opposition to President Sambi has declared it will not accept Mr Sambi as union president after 26 May. If no Mohelian was heading the union presidency by today, the 2001 power-sharing agreement would be seen as null and void. Secession from Comoros is again seen as an option.
"It is unfortunate that the mandate of our president is ending today, and our constitution provides that it is only by election that he can be changed," Ali Houmadi Msaidie, a moderate opposition voice from Moheli told the US broadcaster 'VoA' today. "And, they did not take all the necessary steps to organise this election today. So, our expectation is to have a new and quick calendar in order to have the next president from the island of Moheli in the very near future," Mr Msaidie added.
"Our president doesn't want to leave power, as some of our African leaders, as some of our African leaders do whenever they are in power," Mr Msaidie added.
While Mohelians do not accept the legitimacy of President Sambi's continued rule, ongoing negotiations headed by the African Union (AU) have managed to halt secessionist calls, for now. The AU, which brokered and guarantees the 2001 deal, for months has tried to prevent a new armed conflict in Comoros.
AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra, says he is now close to reach a new deal between President Sambi and the opposition that would include the organisation of election in November. The Mohelian opposition has indicated it is willing to wait till November, but only if the 2001 rotation deal is respected and the next Union President is elected among Mohelians.
Mr Lamara claims President Sambi has been willing to accept November elections and that discussions now mainly concentrate on the election schedule.
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