Opposition marches against Ivory Coast president’s candidacy

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Opposition and civil society groups demonstrated Thursday in Ivory Coast’s city of Abidjan against President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to run for a third term in October elections.

Main access roads to the West African nation’s economic capital were blocked. In some neighborhoods, tires were burned and clashes broke out between police and demonstrators, with police using tear gas.

The demonstrations began in the country’s interior earlier this week and have spread, though many have been dispersed by police and gendarmerie.

They follow Ouattara’s announcement last week that he will seek a third term. The ruling party nominated him as its candidate after its previous nominee, Prime Minister Amadou Coulibaly, died in July from a heart attack.

Ouattara had promised in March not to run again. However, he said the death of the prime minister left a void “in the team that I had put in place.” He has argued that with changes made to the constitution in 2016, his previous terms do not count toward a two-term limit.

Opposition political parties on Wednesday called on Ouattara to withdraw his candidacy, and demanded the resignation of the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission.

Coalition for Reconciliation, Democracy and Peace party spokesman Aka Ahizi said that Ouattara’s decision “violates, in a flagrant way, the constitution which he is supposed to be the guarantor.”

Many worry that tensions could accelerate, leading to deeper political crisis.

Ivory Coast’s Ministry of Territorial Administration said it had not received proper requests for authorization to demonstrate Thursday.

Ouattara’s party said it cancelled its marches that were planned for Thursday.

Ouattara’s main challenger, opposition candidate Henri Konan Bedie, who was president from 1993 to 1999, said in interviews last week that his candidacy would be “illegal.”

Pascal Affi N’Guessan, the candidate for former President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front party, has also spoken out against Ouattara’s candidacy.

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