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Opposition: Comoros Islands President Clings to Power

A top official of Comoros Islands opposition coalition told VOA President Ahmed Abdallah Mohamed Sambi, whose original mandate ends Wednesday, has refused to organize elections.

Ali Houmadi Msaidie said President Sambi’s decision has created tension on the Islands – a charge supporters of President Sambi deny.

“It is unfortunate that the mandate of our president is ending today, and our constitution provides that it’s only by election that he can be changed. And, they didn’t take all the necessary steps to organize this election today. So, our expectation is to have a new and quick calendar in order to have the next president from the Island of Moheli in the very near future,” he said.

Recently, the country’s highest court annulled a law which extended President Sambi’s mandate following weeks of escalated political tensions. This comes after parliament approved a law aligning local and federal elections, which effectively extended Mr. Sambi's term by 18 months. But, opponents accuse the president of clinging to power beyond his mandate – a charge he denies.

Opposition leader Msaidie said President Sambi wants to remain in power.

“It appears that, once again, our president is trying to play tricks in order to avoid the elections very soon. Because, as you know, our president doesn’t want to leave power, as some of our African leaders, as some of our African leaders do whenever they are in power,” Msaidie said.

Under the system of rotation, Moheli is scheduled to take over the presidency after President Sambi’s mandate expires.

But, Mr. Sambi’s move to extend his mandate generated condemnation from residents in Moheli who accused him of a deliberate attempt to rob them of the presidency.

President Sambi’s government defended his action saying the current system is broken and too costly.

Meanwhile, ongoing talks mediated by the African Union aimed at ending tensions have reportedly agreed to a calendar that paves the way for elections in November.

Opposition leader Msaidie said the government has tentatively agreed to a new calendar for the next general elections.

“We are struggling to have the elections at least in November this year. And, it appears that President Sambi and his people will agree on this calendar, but we still need to work on it and to fix it. But, we need also to have the agreement of the Moheli people who were supposed to have their presidency from tomorrow (Wednesday),” Msaidie said.