June 17, 2010 / 9:55 AM / 10 years ago

Comoros leaders agree to poll timetable

* First round of polls on Nov.7

* Deal brokered by African Union

By Ahmed Ali Amir

MORONI, June 17 (Reuters) - Political leaders on the Comoros have agreed to a timetable for new elections, now due to be held by the end of the year, and how the Indian Ocean islands will be run in the meantime, officials said late on Wednesday.

The first round of elections for the governors of the semi-autonomous islands and primaries for the presidency of the Union, which is due to be held next by Moheli, will take place on Nov. 7. A second round of voting will take place on Dec. 26.

Under the constitution, the presidency of the Union of Comoros rotates among the three islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli. But the African Union (AU) has been seeking to end tensions between President Mohamed Abdallah Sambi and his rivals after the leader’s term ran out in May.

“Even if we don’t take a great deal from this, we believe that the essential thing is to know that there is a timetable for the elections and that it will be guaranteed by the international community,” said Mohamed Ismaeila, from the Grand Comoron delegation.

Sambi’s mandate expired on May 26 after the Indian Ocean archipelago’s Constitutional Court annulled a law extending his term. The court’s decision followed weeks of heightened political tension on the coup-prone islands.

While his opponents have accused Sambi of clinging onto power, Sambi’s allies have said the impasse is not about political skullduggery but the practicalities of finding funding and logistics for elections.

Under the new agreement, brokered by Franceso Madeira, the AU’s special envoy for the islands, each island will send a representative to take part in the government, which will still be overseen by Sambi, as president of the Union.

The elections will be run by a leader from Moheli.

Mohamed Ali Said, governor of Moheli, has not yet signed the agreement as he wanted it to be inked on his island. He is due to sign later, Madeira said.

The new president of the Union must be sworn in before May 26, 2011, according to the agreement.

Sandwiched between Mozambique and Madagascar, the politically volatile islands have been rocked by some 20 coups and attempted coups since independence from France in 1975. (Writing by David Lewis; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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