Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council cleared Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara to seek a controversial third term in next month’s election as it rejected the candidacy of two prominent opposition leaders.
Ouattara and his main challenger, Henri Konan Bedie, are among four candidates out of 44 presidential hopefuls that the panel allowed to participate in the Oct. 31 vote.
It barred ex-speaker of parliament and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, as well as Laurent Gbagbo, Ouattara’s predecessor, in a decision that might stir unrest.
Opposition advocates have staged sporadic protests in the world’s top cocoa grower since Ouattara, 78, last month announced that he would seek re-election.
His critics have said that Ivorian law only allows two presidential terms, while the ruling Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace said that a new constitution adopted in 2016 reset the clock.
“A judicial debate took place in a transparent manner,” Ouattara’s lawyer, Abdoulaye Ben Meite, told reporters after the panel announced its decision on Monday 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,” he said.
Earlier this year, Ouattara said that he would step down and hand over power to a younger generation of leaders.
He reversed course after the sudden death in July of his anointed successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, saying that he would run again “because of the challenges we face to maintain peace.”
A former IMF executive, Ouattara has presided over annual economic growth of at least 7 percent since 2012, his first full year in office.
Soro, who has been living in France since December last year, said on Facebook that he would announce tomorrow what steps he would be taking to “fight for democracy.”
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