Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara was formally chosen by his party Saturday to run for a third term in an October election, despite opposition charges it is unconstitutional. The decision came a day after election authorities rejected the candidacies of the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, and ex-rebel leader Guillaume Soro.
Ouattara, who has been in power since 2010, said in March that he would not stand again but changed his position after the death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly -- seen as his anointed successor -- in July.
The announcement came a day after the country’s election authorities rejected appeals by Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro to be allowed to run in the country's October election.
Outtara’s decision to contest a third term in October has already triggered outrage among opposition and civil society groups, who labelled it a "coup" that risked triggering chaos.
The constitution limits presidents to two terms, but 78-year-old Ouattara -- who has served two five-year terms since 2010 -- and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional tweak reset the clock.
His ruling Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) party said Ouattara was nominated as its candidate at an event attended by 100,000 people in an Abidjan stadium.
"We remain focused on the election, with a record to defend and a project to propose to Ivorians," party spokesman Mamadou Touré told AFP, branding the street demonstrations against Ouattara's candidacy a "dismal failure".
Rival candidates rejected
On Friday, the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) rejected appeals by Gbagbo and Soro to run in the October election.
"The decisions have been posted since the 18th, the CEI has not granted their requests," Inza Kigbafori, the CEI communications manager, told AFP.
The shock news heightened tensions before October 31 vote, which takes place in the shadow cast by violence following 2010's election that killed around 3,000 people.
Ivory Coast, one of the world's biggest producers of coffee and cocoa, is still traumatised by the post-electoral violence after the 2010 vote, when Gbagbo refused to cede to the victor, Ouattara.
Gbagbo was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court (ICC) after he was cleared in 2019 of crimes against humanity.
His return to Ivory Coast would be sensitive before the presidential election. His Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party urged him to throw his hat in the electoral ring.
Soro, a former rebel leader, has been forced into self-imposed exile in France in the face of a long list of legal problems at home.
He was a leader in a 2002 revolt that sliced the former French colony into the rebel-held north and the government-controlled south and triggered years of unrest.
He was once an ally of Ouattara, helping him to power during the post-election crisis in 2010. The two eventually fell out.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)