On October 31, Ivorians will elect a new leader. President Alassane Ouattara is running for a third controversial term. The opposition is urging supporters to shun the poll – a political crisis appears imminent.
There is calm in Ivory Coast just days before voters go to the polls. This comes after protests in August left a dozen people dead and more than 100 injured. Roadblocks and burning cars were to be seen at the time, but now life is back to normal. With one difference: Police cars are patroling almost every crossroads in the economic hub of Abidjan, says Thilo Schöne, who heads the Ivory Coast office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), which is close to Germany’s Social Democratic Party.
“The current situation is worrying,” Schöne told DW. “We are heading towards an election that is not perceived as legitimate by many political actors, who are worried about how free and democratic the election will be.”
He said everyday life is interestingly calm at the same time. “The opposition has not managed to mobilize,” he said.
After the sporadic protests in August, the situation has been under control for about five weeks now.
Calls to boycott vote
On Thursday, two leading opposition candidates, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, a former prime minister, and Henri Konan Bedie, a former president, called on their supporters not to participate in the electoral process.
The presidential election on October 31 is controversial for several reasons.
Out of 44 would-be candidates, the electoral commission allowed only four contestants to be on the ballot — Alassane Ouattara, 78, Konan Bedie, 86, Affi N’Guessan, 67, and Kouadio Konan Bertin, 51.
The candidacies of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, who lives in exile, and of ex-Prime Minister Guillaume Soro were rejected by the electoral body, leading to protests. Although the Ivorian constitution allows only two terms in office, incumbent Ouattara received the Constitutional Court’s green light to run for a third term. The court reasoned that due to a constitutional amendment in 2016, Outarra’s first two terms in power did not count.
“Alassane Ouattara’s third candidacy is completely inadmissible and unconstitutional; Ouattara knows that, too,”
Simone Gbagbo, vice president of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), told DW. Gbagbo, the wife of former president Laurent Gbagbo, said the law must be respected.
“In the current situation, we cannot and will not participate in any election.”