Ivory Coast opposition demands 'transition' after election

Abidjan (AFP) –


Ivory Coast opposition leaders on Sunday called for a "civilian transition" from President Alassane Ouattara's government, a day after an election they boycotted in protest over his contested bid for a third term.

Clashes erupted in Ivory Coast in August when Ouattara said a reform allowed him to bypass a two-term presidential limit to run again, angering the opposition who called it an "electoral coup".

Pre-election violence killed at least 30 people and the opposition boycott has stoked fears of a repeat of the 2010-2011 crisis when 3,000 people died after then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara.

"Opposition parties and political groups call for the start of a civilian transition," opposition leader Pascal Affi N'Guessan told reporters as Ivorians awaited the vote's results, saying Ouattara's mandate was over.

There was no immediate response from the government.

Ouattara said on Saturday the election went ahead with only isolated incidents and his ruling party added it expected the Ivorian leader to win.

Scattered unrest, vandalised voting material and some closed polling stations were reported mostly in opposition strongholds during Saturday's election though Ouattara had appealed for calm.

N'Guessan urged Ivorians to mobilise against Ouattara's "outgoing" government.

The tense Ivorian ballot is the latest test for a region where Guinea and Tanzania are caught up in post-election disputes, Nigeria is emerging from widespread unrest and Mali suffered a coup.

Saturday's election pit Ouattara, a former IMF economist, against old adversary Henri Konan Bedie, in the latest turn in their bitter feud that has marked Ivorian politics for decades.

At least two people died in clashes on Saturday in central Tiebissou and Oume, a security source said, though a local mayor of Tiebissou said four were killed in his town.

On Saturday, protests degenerated into clashes between ethnic communities who back rival political factions in Tiebissou, Oume, Yopougon, a poor Abidjan district, and in the western town of Gboguhe, according to witnesses.

According to the office of Tiebissou's mayor, a member of Ouattara's ruling RHDP party, some of the 27 injured in the town had gunshot and stab wounds.

The country's political feuds are often linked with ethnic identities and regional loyalties.

"October 31 was not the deluge as the leaders of the opposition forecast," Adama Bictogo, a senior ruling party official, said after the election.

"The popular will was expressed and all the opposition did for months was defend the idea of not holding elections."

Officials have up to five days to announce the results, but the electoral commission is expected to start releasing initial tallies on Sunday.

- Opposition cries foul -

Opposition leaders on Saturday already dismissed the election as a failure and several opposition figures, including exiled former rebel chief Guillaume Soro, announced they no longer recognised Ouattara as president.

Ouattara, 78, had said after his second term he planned to make way for a new generation, but the sudden death of his chosen successor prompted him to seek a third term.

The Ivorian leader says a constitutional court ruling approved his third term, allowing him to reset the country's two-term presidential limit with a 2016 reform.

Bedie, 86, and other opposition leaders had accused the electoral commission and the constitutional court of favouring the government, making a fair vote impossible.

The weeks before the election saw clashes, mainly between local ethnic groups close to the opposition and Dioula communities seen as loyal to the president, himself a Muslim from the north.

After negotiations, Ouattara won a long-postponed election in 2010 although Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.

Following battles in Abidjan, French forces intervened to help Ouattara loyalists oust the former president.