The Constitutional Council in Côte d’Ivoire has ruled that President Alassane Ouattara is eligible to run for a third term in the 31 October presidential election, even as opponents said his candidacy jeopardises the country’s democracy.
The ruling by the highest court in Côte d’Ivoire paves the way for Ouattara to run for a third term.
Violent protests have shaken Côte d’Ivoire since Ouattara, in power since 2010, announced his candidacy. Over a dozen people have died in clashes between protesters and police since August.
The constitution says the president can only stay in power for two terms, but Ouattara has argued that the publication of a new constitution in 2016 reset his presidency.
The unrest has made political observers worried that the vote could destabilise Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s biggest cocoa producer and French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy.
A disputed election in 2010 led to a brief civil war that killed over 3,000 people.
The Council whittled down an initial list of 44 candidates to just four.
It ruled out rwo of Ouattara’s strongest rivals, former President Laurent Gbagbo, who was acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity charges last year, and the former Jeunes patriotes rebel leader Guillaume Soro. Both men currently reside outside Côte d’Ivoire but command strong followings inside the country.
Their candidacies were rejected because they were not present on the electoral list, the Council said.
The candidacy of another former president, Henri Konan Bédié, was approved.
A country on the edge
Côte d’Ivoire had been on edge in the lead-up to the eagerly awaited ruling by the Council.
Police fired tear gas on Monday to break up demonstrations against Ouattara’s decision to run again.
Protesters set up barricades and shut down traffic in several towns, including the commercial capital, Abidjan, where a burning bus sent up high plumes of black smoke in the densely populated Yopougon district.
Demonstrators also torched a truck in the western city of Bangolo, witnesses said.
Ouattara announced in March that he would not run but reversed his decision after the sudden death of his handpicked successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, in July.