Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. Citizens exercised that ability, although electoral irregularities marred the 2019 presidential election.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: In March 2019 the country held presidential and gubernatorial elections, and the Supreme Court declared Azali Assoumani the winner of the presidential election with 59 percent of the vote following the first round. These elections were not free and fair, and international and domestic observers noted the election was marked by significant irregularities.
During the afternoon of election day, the opposition protested ballot stuffing and the lack of observers in polling stations. Refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the vote, the opposition destroyed ballot boxes on Anjouan and, to a lesser extent, on Grande Comore. Responding to these developments, the government failed to uphold election rules and regulations in the collection and counting of ballots. The government ordered security forces to collect ballots in multiple jurisdictions before polls were scheduled to close, and ballot counting occurred without public oversight.
Also in March 2019 presidential candidate Soilihi Mohamed, along with all of the other opposition candidates, established a National Transition Council and called on the population to engage in civil disobedience if the government did not invalidate the election. Police arrested Soilihi Mohamed for undermining the security of the state. Following a gunfight in which three individuals died, Soilihi Mohamed’s supporters freed him, but security forces subsequently recaptured him. After 12 days in prison, the government released him, and Soilihi Mohamed recognized Azali Assoumani as president and resigned his position as president of the National Transition Council.
In January election authorities conducted free and fair legislative elections. The opposition boycotted the elections and stated they did not recognize either the 2019 presidential or the January legislative results. The government did not allow opposition groups to hold meetings during the legislative elections (see section 2.b., Freedom of Assembly).
Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they participated. Some observers believed that traditional and cultural factors prevented women from participating in political life on an equal basis with men. The March 2019 gubernatorial election resulted in the election of Comoros’s first female governor, Sitti Farouata Mhoudine, who represents Grande Comore. In the National Assembly, there are four women out of 24 elected members, compared with one woman among elected members in the previous National Assembly.