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AU military electoral observers for presidential election

[Comoros] Flag, Dec 2003. IRIN
Upcoming elections will test Comoros' power-sharing arrangement

At the request of the Comoran government, the African Union (AU) will send 500 troops to ensure the archipelago's upcoming elections are free and fair. Under the general leadership of South Africa, which will provide the bulk of the soldiers, with Mozambique, Rwanda and Madagascar also expected to contribute personnel. "The force will consist mainly of military electoral observers and a small police contingency," an official at the South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs told IRIN. "Within the mandate of the AU, the Comoran government requested an international presence to oversee the elections; from the 19th [of March] onwards we will gradually start deploying military observers," the official commented. Presidential primaries are officially due on 16 April and the presidential election will be held on 14 May. "There has always been a question of confidence between the islands [that make up the Comoros]. There is mistrust between the islands so it is important to build legitimate security to ensure the electoral process goes well," he said. The history of Comoros has been plagued by successful and attempted coups, and the more recent temporary secession of two of the three islands - Anjouan and Moheli. In a power-sharing agreement brokered by the AU's predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, the Comoros constitution was amended at the end of the 2001 to give the individual islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli their own semi-autonomous government and president. In March 2002, Assoumani Azali from Grand Comore, the largest island, was elected the federal president of the new union. According to the agreement, the presidency rotates between the three islands and Azali is expected to stand down in the coming elections. The presidency will now go to Anjouan, and the preliminary election on 16 April is reserved for its 270,000 inhabitants. They will elect three candidates to run for the Union presidency on 14 May, when the total Comoros population of 670,000 will vote.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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