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The first round of the parliamentary elections in Comoros was held on January 25, 2015, and the second round on February 22, 2015. Polls were initially scheduled for early November, 2014, but were rescheduled twice “without explanation.” Municipal elections took place simultaneously with the national polls.

International observers, including missions by the African Union, the Arab League and the International Francophonie Organization, declared the vote “free and transparent.”

The country has undergone chronic political instability, with “more than 20 coups or attempted coups” since gaining independence from France in 1975. The president serves both as head of state and head of government. Stemming from the power-sharing Fomboni Accords of 2000 and the 2001 constitution, the presidency rotates every four years among the three islands (Grande Comore, Anjouan, and Moheli). Following a 2009 referendum, the presidential term was increased to five years and other constitutional reforms that centralized power were instituted: “the reforms […] downgraded island presidents to the status of governors, limited the size of cabinets, empowered the president to dissolve the federal parliament, and allowed the president to rule by decree with parliament’s approval.” The incumbent president is Ikililou Dhoinine from Moheli, whose 5-year term expires in 2016.

The 33-seat unicameral Assembly of the Union is the legislative branch of the government. 24 out of the 33 members are elected by popular vote in single-member districts under the two-round run-off voting system and the 9 remaining are appointed by the legislatures of the three islands (3 from Grande Comore, 3 from Anjouan and 3 from Moheli). All 33 members serve a 5-year term.

The 2015 parliamentary polls were viewed as a referendum on the popularity of the former President, Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, who plans his political comeback ahead of next year’s presidential election. Sambi’s plans for a 2016 presidential run have the potential to jeopardize the fragile political stability since the next president should hail from the Grand Comore. Sambi, or any politician from Anjouan, needs to wait the turn of the island in 2021.

Women’s political participation

Following the 2009 parliamentary elections, there was only one woman in the 33-seat legislature. With only one woman MP (3%), the country ranked 132th in the world classification about women in parliament.

In 2013, the Thomson Reuters Foundation named Comoros the “best Arab state for women”, based on an examination by gender experts of criteria covering equality in law, societal attitudes, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and women’s political and economic participation. More specifically:

Comoros' constitution, which states that citizens will draw governing principles and rules from Islamic tenets, also refers to citizens' equal rights and duties regardless of sex.

However, it is clear that men are at an advantage when it comes to family law, which allows them the right to polygamy and to unilaterally divorce their wives among other privileges.”

“Comoros has ratified the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, sometimes called the world’s “bill of rights” for women. It is one of the only three Arab League states to do so without any reservations. It has also ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.”

“Lands and homes are usually awarded to women in case of divorce or separation in Comoros, according to the U.S. State Department.”

“Half the inmates in Moroni's prisons are being held for sex crimes, a proportion that suggests Comoros has enforced laws against sexual violence.”

“More than a third of adult women are in the labour force, U.N. data shows.”

“In the last government, women were installed as minister of telecommunications and labour minister. This represented 20 percent of Comoros' total ministerial positions, a higher proportion than in any of the other 21 polled Arab states.”

“Women are beginning to make their entrance in high, decision-making positions. The state prosecution, the Great Mutal Funds of Comoros, the Postal Bank and the General Planning Commission are all headed by women.”

Conclusion

Voter turnout in this election was very high, exceeding 70%. Following the second round of the election, no party will hold a majority in the next parliament; however, the pro-Dhoinine Union for the Development of Comoros (UPDC) came slightly ahead of the pro-Sambi Juwa party, with 8 seats for UPDC as opposed to 7 seats for Juwa. The final results are scheduled to be announced on March 6th.

Though the final number of women who will enter the next parliament has not been announced, at least one, women’s rights activist, Hadjira Oumouri will be seated in the legislature. Oumouri won in one of the 24 directly elected seats, in the Itsahidi district, as a candidate of the party Democratic Rally of the Comoros (RDC). She scored 64.91% of the vote, a record for any candidate of all parties during the second round of the election. Having served as regional secretary of her party, RDC, Oumouri in an interview with Al-watwan months before the election stated that despite their contributions to the development of the country, “women are marginalized and that will not change unless women have access to the decision-making centers.”

To better assess whether women in politics face obstacles as a result of the political recruitment process or as a result of bias from voters, the collection of gender-disaggregated data would go a long way toward improving our understanding of the challenges and the introduction of informed interventions.

In order to drastically increase the number of women in the national legislature, reserved seats or legislated quotas, might be necessary. The African Development Bank in its “Gender profile of the Union of the Comoros” recommends to the Comoran government (6.1.3) the adoption of affirmative action “to reverse as soon as possible, the current trend of quasi-absence of women in decision-making position.” Gender quotas in Comoros have been recently introduced at the municipal level and it seems that a conversation about gender quotas at the national level is underway. Should the country decide to move forward with the adoption of the quota legislation, ensuring that parties will be committed to the implementation of the quota law, instead of a relying on a voluntary adoption, will be critical to the advancement of Comoran women in national politics.

Women’s Representation Statistics

Women’s Political Representation

As of 2009

As of 2015

Female Members of Parliament

1/33 (3%)

N/A

 

 

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