The incumbent President Azali Assoumani won the presidential elections in Comoros securing a fourth term in office. In the recently concluded poll, all candidates were male. While there was no woman vying for the presidency, there were positive developments in terms of women’s participation in elections. The Joint Election Observation Mission from the African Union (AU) and Eastern African Standby Force reported a notable mobilization of women as members of polling stations. Furthermore, in the island governor elections held simultaneously with the presidential polls, Ms Chamina Ben Mohamed was elected.

The Union of the Comoros' presidential poll on 14 January 2024 started the 2024 elections in Africa. Six male candidates vied for the presidency in the Comoros. Initial reports said incumbent President Azali Assoumani received 62.97% of the votes, securing a win in the first round and avoiding a runoff. The Comorian Supreme Court later published revised results stating that President Assoumani received 57.2% of the votes. The Court also reported a significantly higher turnout in 2024, putting it at 56.44% compared to 53% voter turnout in 2019. Its figures are considerably higher than those published by the Independent National Election Commission (CENI), which showed a turnout of 16.3%.

Opponents of President Assoumani alleged voter fraud and claimed there wereinstances of ballot stuffing and of voting ending before the official closing time.” The government denied the allegations and claims. Similarly, in previous elections, there were reports of irregularities and allegations of voter intimidation and fraud.

The announcement of the results sparked protests, and tension rose. The interior ministry announced that the government would impose an overnight curfew. During one of the protests, the security forces allegedly responded by using tear gas against women peacefully marching in Moheli. Reports indicate that some 100 women and minors were arrested but were later released. Since 2019, peaceful demonstrations and public political gatherings are not permitted in Comoros. 

The opposition called for boycotts of the elections. They alleged the presidential poll would not be free and fair as CENI appeared to favor Mr Assoumani. CENI has been accused of bias and corruption. During the period leading up to the election, there were also reports of arbitrary detention and alleged enforced disappearance of detainees.

Nevertheless, the Joint Election Observation Mission from the African Union (AU) and Eastern African Standby Force, including members from civil society organisations, said the Comorian presidential election “took place generally peaceful atmosphere”. However, the Joint Electoral Mission also noted the political divisions and the opposition's active boycott” of the elections. There has also been a lack of interest, according to the AU, due to opposition boycotts. 

The political environment in the Comoros is marked by division and tension. Some opposition parties have boycotted Comorian elections and referendum. Many opposition parties have also boycotted the Inter-Comorian National Dialogue, which aimed to build consensus on political and socioeconomic topics. They did not believe it would be an “opportunity for genuine political engagement.”

Since its independence in 1975, Comoros has experienced multiple coups or attempted coups. The 2001 Constitution required that the president, directly elected for a single five-year term, rotate among the three main islands of Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Mohéli to promote stability and power-sharing. In 2018, Comoros held a constitutional referendum which removed this provision and allowed the president to run for two consecutive five-year terms. The referendum also abolished the three vice-presidential posts (one representing each island). The amendment to the Constitution permitted President Assoumani to seek re-election following his return to power in 2016. Mr Assoumani first came to power following a coup in 1999 and remained in office until 2006 after winning the 2002 elections.

Women’s political participation and representation in Comoros

Where are the women? Women’s participation in Comorian political life and representation in elective and appointive positions remains low. In the recently concluded presidential poll, there was no female candidate. Since 2010, there have been only two women vying for the presidency. The first female presidential candidate was Ms Zaharia Said Hamed in 2010. She was followed in the 2016 presidential poll by Ms Moinaecha Youssouf Djalali, who also participated in the 2019. During her campaign, Moinaecha Djalali, presented as “the mother of the archipelago, promised “a change for Comorian women.” No Comorian woman has yet to win a presidential election.

Concurrent with the 2024 presidential poll, Comorian voters also elected their respective island governors. Of the 26 candidates for governor, there was one woman Ms Chamina Ben Mohamed. She was elected governor of Mohéli.

Concerning women’s participation in the election, the AU and Eastern African Standby Force Joint Electoral Mission found a
notable mobilisation and women accounted for 46% of polling station members.

There have been few Comorian women in decision-making positions. In 1991, Sittou Raghadat Mohamed made history when she became the first female minister. She served as Secretary of State for Population and the Condition of Women. Since 2010, women represented between 0-1% of the total number of ministers in the Comorian government. However, in 2012 and 2015, women held 20% (2 out of 10) of the ministerial posts. As of January 1 2023, 
one of 13 ministers is a woman. Madame Loub Yacout Zaidou serveas the Minister of Health, Solidarity, Social Protection and Gender.

The percentage of women elected to deliberative bodies at the national and sub-national levels remains low in Comoros, however, following the 2020 elections there have been positive developments. In 2020 4 women were elected to the Assembly compared to one in 2015. As of 1January 2024, women represent 16.7% of the members and men 83.3%. At the sub-national level, the percentage of women elected increased from 28.04% in 2015 to 33.3% in 2020. Comoros currently does not have a quota in place at the national level, however, there is a legislated candidate quota used at the sub-national level.

Various factors explain the low female representation and participation. For example, the political sphere in Comoros is male-dominated. Barriers such as cultural perceptions and traditional attitudes prevent women from participating in politics and hinder their equitable participation in politics and decision-making. Despite the election of women, gender stereotypes persist. According to activist Hissane Guy, “Men are not ready to make room for women.” Although Chamina Ben Mohamed ultimately won, her candidacy was reportedlypoorly received, and the previous governor declared that “he was not ready to vote for a woman.” Additionally, while Comorian women play a crucial role in the country’s development and management, their contributions are not fully recognized and they do not have equal participation in decision-making processes.

Gender inequality persists. Competing legal systems challenge women’s rights legislation implementation and hinder Comorian women’s political participation. Sexual violence and workplace harassment are believed to be commonplace. They are, however, rarely reported. In Comoros, women head a high proportion of households due to the migration of their husbands. Though female-headed households benefit from the remittances, these also create economic dependence and constrain women’s political and economic participation. Comorian women represented 37.4% of the total labour force in 2023 and are more likely to fall into poverty than men. While women have the right to inherit land and property, they do not always have the right to use or derive income from the land or property, as the husband or male relative receives those privileges. Furthermore, Comorian women often have difficulties securing loans, which hinders their right to own land.

The challenges Comorian women wishing to become politically active face can result in them becoming theirown obstacle”. They internalize the idea that “women cannot be elected”, as Madam Sittou Raghadat noted, and do not dare assert the right to seek and hold a position in the political sphere.  

Legal and policy reforms on women’s rights

The Comorian Government has taken steps to advance women’s political participation and representation through policy initiatives and legislation. 

Under the
 Constitution, Comorian women have the right to access to political instances of local and national representation and participate in political life, directly or by the intermediary of representatives freely elected. Regarding women’s representation in Government, the Constitution states that the Government shall be “composed in a manner to assure the just and equitable representation of the Islands and a just and equitable division between men and women. Furthermore, the Constitution guarantees women the right to security of employment and to receive identical remuneration for equal work. Women also have the right to be protected by public powers against all forms of exploitation and violence. 

Comoros has implemented measures to strengthen women’s rights and political participation, such as enabling women to serve at the mayoral level (2014 Electoral Code) or addressing prevention and repression of violence against women. Under the Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development (SCA2D) 2018-2021, the goal is to have 30% of women on the list of candidates in national elections and councillors of the autonomous islands and 30% in the executive of the Union.

In 2017, the National Commissariat for the Promotion of Gender in the Union of Comoros launched the Thematic Group on Gender to reinforce efforts and improve the coordination initiatives undertaken in different sectors on promoting gender in the political sphere. The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms of the Union of Comoros (CNDHL) organized a workshop on strengthening the capacities of young people, women and civil society in human rights and democracy in 2021. Among its activities was to support women and encourage their participation in the public sector.

Comorian women advocating for change

Civil society organisations, women’s groups and female politicians drive the efforts to advance and strengthen women’s rights in Comoros. Among the most notable is the promotion and adoption of a law establishing a quota as "the advancement of women will only be possible with an accompanying legal text." The Law, known as the Hadjira Act, was drawn up by the Platform for Women in Politics and other civil society organisations. The Hadjira Act sought to promote gender equality in access to nominative and elective positions. It would require women to hold 30% of the executive positions in the Union and autonomous islands and that at least 30% of candidates for elections at national and local levels be women. Hadjira Oumouri proposed the Act to the Assembly, which unanimously adopted it in 2017. However, the Act has yet to be promulgated and cannot be applied. 

Ms Hadjira Oumouri is a former member of the Assembly and a longtime activist for women’s health and rights. Ms Oumouri said her experiences working as a midwife and later serving as mayor of Itsahidi Commune and her desire to address the gender inequalities motivated her to run for a seat in the parliament. While in parliament, she introduced many bills promoting gender equality. In addition to the quota, she also proposed legislation addressing sexual harassment in the workplace and classroom. 


Women’s representation and participation in Comorian political and decision-making processes remain low. In the 2024 presidential elections, there was no female candidate. Of the six male candidates, incumbent President Assoumani received most of the votes and was declared the winner. In the governor elections, Ms Chamina Ben Mohamed, the sole female candidate, was elected. With respect to women’s representation in the Comorian polls, the AU and Eastern African Standby Force Joint Electoral Mission reported that 46% of polling station members were female.

Civil society organisations work tirelessly to advance and strengthen women’s rights and female participation in political and public life in Comoros. Among their most notable achievements, together with former member of the Assembly Ms Oumouri, was the promotion and adoption of the Hadjira Act in 2017. The Act, however, has yet to be enacted by the President. In 2023, women’s groups and civil society organisation representatives met with the President, who indicated he would do so but did not indicate when according to one representative. According to Moinaécha Mroudjaé, President of the Platform for Women in Politics, the delay in putting the Quota Law raised many questions noting that "women are impatiently awaiting this promulgation because soon there will be elections and women cannot continue to be simply voters." 

Efforts are underway to promote and ensure women’s equal and full participation in political and public life, removing barriers and eradicating gender stereotypes. It requires a holistic approach. As Maliza Youssouf Said Soilihi, a female lawyer, noted, the responsibility for promoting equitable participation rests with Comorian society as a whole, political parties and government institutions.” The AU and Eastern African Standby Force Joint Electoral Mission called on the Comorian government to strengthen parity and representation of women in the political system and for the political parties to promote parity and presentation of women as candidates. 

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