Supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo celebrate along a street in Abidjan's Yopougon neighborhood, January 15 2019. Picture: REUTERS/LUC GNAGO
Supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo celebrate along a street in Abidjan's Yopougon neighborhood, January 15 2019. Picture: REUTERS/LUC GNAGO

Abidjan — Ivory Coast’s constitutional council cleared President Alassane Ouattara to seek a controversial third term in October’s election as it rejected the candidacy of two prominent opposition leaders.

The incumbent and his main challenger, Henri Konan Bedie, are among the four approved candidates, out of 44 presidential hopefuls, set to take part in the October 31 vote. The council barred former speaker of parliament and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, as well as Laurent Gbagbo, Ouattara’s predecessor, in a decision likely to stir further unrest.

“A judicial debate took place in a transparent manner,” Ouattara’s lawyer, Abdoulaye Ben Meite, told journalists outside the council building in the commercial capital, Abidjan. “The Constitutional Council has settled the debate and I think Ivorians will do well to comply with this decision, to respect the decision and the authority from which it came.”

Opposition parties in the world’s top cocoa grower have disputed Ouattara’s right to run again, saying the country’s constitution only allows two presidential terms. The ruling party has argued that a new constitution adopted in 2016 wiped his slate clean. Sporadic protests have erupted since the 78-year-old’s August 6 announcement that he would seek re-election as the candidate of the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace.

Earlier in 2020, Ouattara had said he would step down and hand over to a younger generation of leaders. He reversed course after the sudden death in July of his anointed successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, saying he would run again “because of the challenges we face to maintain peace.”

The former International Monetary Fund executive has presided over annual economic growth of at least 7% since 2012, his first full year in office.

Soro was convicted in absentia in April 2020 of embezzlement and money laundering. Gbagbo was sentenced in absentia in November 2019 for “looting” a local branch of the Central Bank of West African States. These convictions led the electoral commission to remove them from the voter’s register — and that ultimately disqualified them from running for office, the council said Monday.

Bloomberg

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