Comoros bans rallies as election tensions heat up


Comoros banned political rallies on Thursday after a disputed presidential vote count handed victory to the ruling party candidate, an army spokesman said. The Ministry of Defence deployed additional security forces to possible flashpoints and prohibited both public celebrations by the presidential camp and opposition protests for more than two weeks on the Indian Ocean archipelago.

“In Moroni, like in (the island of) Anjouan’s hotspots, we have reinforced patrols … notably in front of public buildings arbitrating in the electoral operations,” Said Ahmed Tourqui, from the army chief’s communications office, told Reuters. Official results from the Independent National Electoral Commission on Wednesday gave Ikililou Dhoinine 61 percent of the vote against 33 percent for opposition rival Mohamed Said Fazul.

Fazul swiftly denounced the count on Anjouan and the biggest island of Grande Comore as fraudulent and promised daily demonstrations. An international observer mission said the vote was carried out in a way “that would overall guarantee acceptable results to everyone”. All the candidates were from the third island of Moheli, an opposition stronghold, under an agreement to rotate power among representatives of the country’s main islands.

The ban on rallies will hold until January 15th when the Constitutional Court is expected to declare the official winner. Dhoinine, the finance minister and deputy to outgoing President Ahmed Abdullah Mohamed Sambi, who has ruled since 2006, pledged to continue with reforms to spur growth in the spice islands’ tiny economy. “As soon as possible, we are going to take up again the reforms to stimulate each (economic) sector,” he said.

Earlier this year, the International Monetary Fund projected the heavily indebted economy would expand by 2 percent in 2010 against 1.8 percent last year.