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Former Coup Leader Wins Presidential Race in Comoros

Azali Assoumani addresses supporters during a presidential campaign rally in Moroni, Comoros, Jan. 24, 2016. He was declared the winner of a runoff election April 15, 2016.

A former coup leader and opposition politician has won the presidential election in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros in a runoff vote after a disputed first round in February, officials said Friday.

Colonel Azali Assoumani, who first seized power in a coup 1999 and ruled until 2006 after winning the first multiparty poll in 2002, was declared winner of Sunday's runoff with 40.9 percent of the vote, the election commission said.

Lying between Mozambique on the African mainland and the island of Madagascar, the poor and politically volatile Comoros islands have been rocked by some 20 coups and attempted coups since gaining independence from France in 1975.

Analysts say the completion of a five-year term by outgoing President Ikililou Dhoinine is a sign of stability.

Assoumani's main rival, Vice President Mohamed Ali Solihi, who had the government's backing, secured 39.9 percent of the vote. The third candidate in the runoff secured 19.2 percent.

Under the constitution, the presidency of the Union of Comoros rotates among the three islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.

Assoumani, who comes from Grande Comore, had after the first round secured the backing of Juwa, an opposition party whose own candidate dropped out. Assoumani's CRC party is the second-biggest opposition group after Juwa.

More than a dozen candidates demanded a recount after the initial vote, but the Constitutional Court ruled against them.

Political parties and candidates have five days to submit any challenges to the latest vote before it is declared final.

In a report last year, the International Monetary Fund said a semblance of political stability and economic turnaround set in after the adoption of a new constitution in 2009, but that challenges in coordination between the union government and islands still hindered development.

The islands have few natural resources and largely rely on exports such as cloves and vanilla, remittances from citizens working abroad and foreign aid to finance development projects.