Ivory Coast opposition vows to form transition government

International

People cross a street at Blockhaus neighborhood during the dusk in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Ivory Coast residents braced for more unrest Sunday as election officials began releasing the first results from the country’s presidential election and opponents of President Alassane Ouattara stepped up their criticism of his quest for a third term. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast’s major opposition parties vowed Monday to create their own transitional government, insisting that President Alassane Ouattara’s mandate to lead the country is now over even as partial results from the election showed him headed toward a controversial third term.

The move was expected to further escalate tensions between the opposition leaders who boycotted Saturday’s presidential election and those loyal to the West African nation’s incumbent leader of nearly a decade.

By evening, the country’s electoral commission had released provisional results from fewer than half of the country’s 108 departments. It wasn’t immediately clear when a final tally would be announced, but the opposition continued to attack the legitimacy of the vote itself.

Pascal Affi N’Guessan, one of the top opposition candidates who later boycotted the vote, said late Monday that Henri Konan Bedie, the country’s 86-year-old former president, would head up a council of transition.

A new transitional government then will be be formed and tasked with preparing “the framework for the organization of a fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election,” he said

“Opposition parties and political groups affirm that the call for civil disobedience is maintained and call on the Ivorian people to remain mobilized until the final victory,” he said, reading from a statement.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the opposition could proceed with their plan given that the country’s electoral commissions are heavily weighted with Ouattara supporters as is the constitutional council that is to certify official results from Saturday’s election.

Tensions surrounding the vote have raised fears of post-election violence in the West African country, where more than 3,000 people died in 2010-2011 when then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara. The opposition says more than 30 people have died in violence related to Saturday’s vote.

The opposition coalition has asserted that only 10% of Ivorians cast ballots, without citing its source. Election officials have yet to release a nationwide voter turnout rate, but international observers said Monday that “a significant portion of the population did not vote.”

“These problems threaten public acceptance of the results and the country’s cohesion,” said a statement released by the observer mission carried out by The Carter Center and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.

Ouattara initially promised not to seek a third term after nearly a decade in power, but changed his mind after his party’s candidate to succeed him died from a heart problem in July. The 78-year-old president, who is popular with international donors, has said he was motivated to run again because of his love for his country.

“It’s a sacrifice I’m making,” he told France 24 and Radio France Internationale in an interview just before the vote. “For me, it would be difficult, even impossible” to run again in 2025, he said.

Ouattara maintains that his first two terms no longer count toward the two-term limit because of a constitutional referendum in 2016. The electoral observer mission, though, said Monday the justifications made to allow his bid “have no clear legal basis.”

“This guidance echoes a worrisome trend observed on the African continent to change or amend the Constitution to allow incumbent presidents to run for a third term,” it said in its preliminary declaration.

Of the 44 candidates who sought to run, 40 were disqualified. Only one of the three opposition candidates actively campaigned against Ouattara after the two others called for a boycott.

The observer mission also said Monday that the exclusion of most candidates had compromised the integrity of Ivory Coast’s election.

Guillaume Soro, a former prime minister and president of the National Assembly, remains in France after his return to Ivory Coast was thwarted by criminal charges his followers say were politically motivated. Gbagbo, the former president, is living in Belgium while ICC prosecutors appeal his acquittal. He was struck from the electoral list and refused a passport.

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Associated Press writer Toussaint N’Gotta contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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