Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to run for a third term in October’s presidential election triggered outrage on Friday among opposition and civil society groups, who labelled it a “coup” that risked tipping the country into chaos.
Ouattara, in power since 2010, said in March that he would not run for re-election, which the opposition has strongly maintained he was unable to do anyway because the constitution limits presidents to two terms.
But the race was turned on its head by the sudden death of prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly — seen as Ouattara’s anointed successor — from a heart attack in July.
The shock news ramped up the volatility for the tense October 31 vote, which takes place in the shadow cast by political violence following 2010’s election in which around 3,000 people died.
Ouattara said on Thursday that he would run after all, citing “a case of force majeure” after the death of his ruling RHDP party’s candidate Coulibaly “left a void”.
The constitution limits presidents to two five-year terms.
But a new constitution was adopted in 2016, which Ouattara and his supporters argue reset the clock, allowing him to run again — an interpretation strongly contested by the opposition.
Assoa Adou, the general secretary of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), one of the country’s two main opposition parties, said: “Alassane Ouattara cannot in any case stand in the election. His own experts have said so.”
‘Organised state coup’
N’Goran Djedri of the West African country’s largest opposition party PDCI said Ouattara “is not above the law”.
“The people of Ivory Coast must demand the exact application of the 2016 constitution, which stipulates in article 183 that the legislation currently in force remains applicable.”