Ivory Coast: Ouattara cruises to win, opponents seek ‘transition’

Opposition leaders who called for a boycott ask supporters to mobilise as early results show incumbent on track to overwhelming victory.

President Alassane Ouattara speaks after casting his ballot in Abidjan [Luc Gnago/Reuters]

Opposition leaders in Ivory Coast have called for a “civilian transition” from President Alassane Ouattara’s government, as official results showed the incumbent taking a commanding early lead in his controversial bid to secure a third term in an election that has been marked by deadly violence.

Ouattara won all 20 of the districts that were announced from Saturday’s vote by the electoral commission. Results from the other 88 districts are expected to be announced later on Sunday or early Monday.

The president has been expected to win re-election after his opponents called for a boycott of the vote in protest of what they say is an illegal bid to hold onto power. Ouattara says the approval of a new constitution in 2016 means he is not violating a two-term limit.

The dispute led to violence in the lead-up to the polls that killed more than 30 people. At least five more people died in clashes on election day in the centre of the country, officials said on Sunday.

The unrest has stoked fears of a repeat of the electoral violence that had engulfed the country nearly a decade ago. The 2010 election standoff led to months of fighting that left more than 3,000 people dead after then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner.

Opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan addresses reporters in Abidjan [Luc Gnago/Reuters]

In a joint statement on Sunday, opposition candidates Henri Konan Bedie, a former president, and ex-Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan said on Sunday that about 30 people had died since Saturday, without providing details.

“Opposition parties and political groups call for the start of a civilian transition,” Affi N’Guessan told reporters, urging supporters to mobilise.

He said they rejected the election and believed Ouattara’s mandate was over, adding that fewer than 10 percent of people had turned up to vote, without providing evidence.

There are no official estimates yet of turnout, but a domestic observer mission said 23 percent of polling places did not open at all because of opposition interference that included barricading roads and threatening election staff.

Later on Sunday, the governing party warned “Affi N’Guessan and his cohorts against any attempt at destabilisation”.

Ouattara said on Saturday that the election went ahead with only isolated incidents and his party added it expected him to be declared the winner.

Scattered unrest, vandalised voting materials and some closed polling stations were reported mostly in opposition strongholds during the election.

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.

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

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies