Officials in the Comoros said Tuesday that a constitutional referendum that would allow current President Azali Assoumani to extend his term has passed with an overwhelming 93 percent of the vote.
The provisional results released by the country’s electoral commission showed 170,240 votes in favor of the measure, which would also end the practice of rotating the presidency among the three islands that make up the Indian Ocean nation. Just 13,332 “no” votes were recorded, with 712 of 723 polling sites accounted for.
The total reflected a voter participation rate of 63.9 percent, according to commission head Ahmed Mohamed Djaza.
Opposition politicians and observers raised concerns over the legitimacy of the results. A representative of the Eastern Africa Standby Force, which has been on the ground alongside COMESA representatives to conduct an observer mission in Comoros, told AFP that he witnessed ballot-count irregularities.
Voting on the referendum was marred by at least two violent incidents at polling sites in Moroni, the capital city on Grande Comore. One gendarme lost his hand in a machete attack that Daoud blamed on the JUWA opposition, citing witnesses who said they saw crowds coming from the JUWA headquarters.
JUWA leaders condemned the poll violence in a statement and extended condolences to the affected families, but also dismissed the referendum results as fraudulent. Tensions in Comoros have escalated for weeks as the political opposition rallied against the referendum and called for boycotts.
Both the African Union and the United Nations expressed concerns over the growing threat of violence and issued appeals for calm on Sunday. UN Secretary General António Guterres called attention to repression of civil liberties and democratic rights ahead of Monday’s vote; Assoumani suspended the country’s high court in April, and opposition party leaders were arrested during protests in June.
Image: Government of Comoros