Comoros Vice-President Ahmed Said Jaffar Denounces ‘illegal’ Referendum

The Comoran vice-president has denounced as “illegal” a planned July referendum on constitutional reform that could allow President Azali Assoumani to seek re-election.

Assoumani only took office in 2016 but wants to hold a fresh vote next year, two years early, so that he can remain in power beyond 2021 when his currently non-renewable term would otherwise end.

The referendum, scheduled for July 29, could change the current system — which sees power rotate every five years between the archipelago’s three main islands — and enable the president to run for two fresh five year-terms.

The nation was plunged into crisis in April when Assoumani suspended the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the country, sparking opposition protests.

One of his leading critics, ex-president Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, has been placed under house arrest, while another prominent opposition leader was jailed Monday following violent clashes between security forces and anti-government demonstrators.

At a rally Saturday, Vice-President Ahmed Said Jaffar called on Comorans to “reject the dangerous abuse” of power.

“The planned constitutional referendum which we are meant to vote on is illegal,” he told the crowd, adding that “the law has been stamped on”.

“The Constitutional Court, which regulates the proper functioning of the state and arbitrates the electoral process, has been suspended… So how can this electoral process happen?”

He also warned that the country’s political future was at stake.

The president’s office has not commented on Jaffar’s statements. But senior members of Assoumani’s ruling party were holding a crisis meeting in the capital Moroni on Sunday, an AFP correspondent there said.

Comoros — situated in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar and one of the world’s poorest countries — has been beset by instability and political disputes for years.

Assoumani’s critics say the president is intent on enshrining himself in power and destroying democracy.

He first seized power in a coup in 1999 and ruled until 2006 after winning a democratic election in 2002.

He returned a decade later as president after an election marred by violence and allegations of voting irregularities.

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Source: Daily Mail

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