March 25, 2019 / 2:48 PM / a month ago

Police disperse Comoros opposition leaders' election protest

MORONI (Reuters) - Police in Comoros used tear gas on Monday to disperse demonstrators led by opposition leaders protesting against what they said were fraudulent presidential elections, witnesses said.

Opposition candidates had said the Sunday poll was marred by irregularities including barring of independent monitors and marking of ballot papers before voting began, which the government denied.

About 300,000 voters in the Indian Ocean archipelago of 800,000 people took part in the elections, with results expected to be announced by electoral body CENI later on Monday.

Protests led by opposition candidates started on Monday morning, with nearly 1,000 people chanting “Azali Nalawe” (Azali outside), referring to incumbent President Azali Assoumani.

Assoumani, a former military officer, is widely expected to be re-elected.

Soilihi Mohamed, one of the candidates, said their objective was to “to prevent the power to validate the fraudulent results of the elections”.

The demonstrators marched towards Independence Square for a rally before taking the direction of the Peoples’ Palace, the venue for the counting of results, a Reuters witness said.

Ibrahim Ali Mzimba, another presidential candidate, suffered a cut to his face.

“I think I was grazed by a bullet that touched my face,” he said.

Comoros experienced months of unrest last year as authorities moved to quell protests against Assoumani’s bid to extend presidential term limits.

People on the archipelago’s Anjouan island were angry that the move, which allowed Assoumani to participate in Sunday’s poll, would deny them the presidency under a system that rotates the post among the country’s three main islands.

Reporting by Ali Ahmed Amir; Writing by George Obulutsa, editing by Ed Osmond

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