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Victory for Comoros Island’s Democracy

A prominent member of Comoros Island’s opposition coalition says the Constitutional Court was right to annul the law extending President Mohamed Abdallah Sambi's term.

Ali Houmadi Msaidie said it is a victory for the country’s democracy after saying President Sambi nearly destabilized the nation after extending his mandate. He said it created a lot of tension and instability.

“As opposition, we are very happy that the Constitutional Court canceled a law which brought unrest and political instability in the country, (and) a bill which also destroyed the framework of the constitution. So, it’s a victory not for us, but for democracy and the consolidation of our democratic institutions,” he said.

Recently, President Sambi won a referendum that extended his mandate. But, the opposition described the move as a coup d’état accusing him of clinging to power and setting the groundwork for a longer extension.

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

But, Msaidie said the country’s parliament does not have the power to extend his mandate.

“The lawmakers have no right to extend the mandate. In this country, the constitution is clear (that) if you want to be president, you have to be elected through the ballot poll. Not through a law (or) a bill passed (by) parliament. It’s not the way things go on here in Comoros,” Msaidie said.

After opposition lawmakers boycotted proceedings, President Sambi’s supporters in parliament scheduled 27 November 2011 as the date for the general elections to choose a governor for the country’s three Islands: Anjouan, Moheli and Grande Comore.

Local media reported that President Sambi is scheduled to hand over power to a leader from Moheli in 2011 under the regular system of rotation.

Residents in Moheli are reportedly expecting one of its leaders to soon take over the presidency after the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

Msaidie said Moheli residents are overjoyed with the ruling.

“They are really very happy about the decision of the Constitutional Court, which is a right decision (and) which is a victory for democracy,” Msaidie said.

The Constitutional Court said in its ruling that President Sambi's term will end later this month and not the extended term of November 2011.

The court also recommended an interim period for an agreement to be reached on the next general elections.

Msaidie said the opposition parties are currently holding talks to make a decision on the next elections.

President Sambi was recently quoted as saying that he asked Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi to send soldiers to train his presidential guard - a move analysts said further heightened tensions.

Some Comorans also expressed fear that the increased tension could lead to a coup d’état.

Msaidie said the presence of the foreign troops is suspicious.

“The president brought into the country foreign troops. We are told they are from Libya (but) we are not so sure that they are from Libya. So, I don’t know if these foreign troops will make a coup. But, the local army will stick with the decision of the Constitutional Court. And, there is no need to make a coup,” Msaidie said.