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CÔTE D'IVOIRE

Côte d'Ivoire court clears President Ouattara's contentious third-term bid

President Alassane Ouattara speaks at the meeting of the ruling coalition party organised to nominate him to stand for a third term in October's election in Abidjan, August 22, 2020.
President Alassane Ouattara speaks at the meeting of the ruling coalition party organised to nominate him to stand for a third term in October's election in Abidjan, August 22, 2020. REUTERS - LUC GNAGO
3 min

Côte d'Ivoire's top court has cleared the way for President Alassane Ouattara to seek a controversial third term, sparking violent protest in several cities. The constitutional council also barred former president Laurent Gbagbo and ex-prime minister Guillaume Soro from standing in next month's election.

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Only four of the 44 original candidates remain in the running for the 31 October presidential poll.

Apart from incumbent Ouattara, the other contenders cleared to run are former president Henri Konan Bédié from the historically dominant Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), Gbagbo's former prime minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan, and Kouadio Konan Bertin, a dissident from Bédié's party. 

The constitutional court decision provoked violent protests in several cities, with a bus being torched in Yopougon, a working-class district of the economic capital Abidjan.

Yopougon is known as a fiefdom of exiled former president Laurent Gbagbo.

Fears of a return to electoral violence

Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara after the 2010 election sparked a bloody conflict in what was formerly a beacon of stability and prosperity in the region.

In the western city of Bangolo, demonstrators set fire to a mining truck and other vehicles on Monday. Police dispersed protesters using tear gas.

At least 15 people have died in violence since Ouattara announced last month that he would run for a third term.

Côte d'Ivoire's constitution limits presidents to two terms, but Ouattara and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional adjustment reset the clock.

Death of Coulibaly changed balance

The president had previously committed to not running again, but changed his mind after the sudden death of his anointed successor, then prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, from a heart attack in July.

The electoral commission has said that anyone convicted of a crime will be disqualified from running for the top office. It therefore barred former rebel chief turned prime minister Guillaume Soro, after he was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison for "concealment of embezzlement of public funds".

Laurent Gbagbo was sentenced in absentia to a 20-year term over the looting of the local branch of the Central Bank of West African States during the 2010-11 crisis.

Former president Bédié is expected to be the opposition's main flagbearer, after his PDCI party nominated the 86-year-old as its candidate last Saturday.

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