Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara has been reelected to a controversial third term, the country’s electoral commission announced Tuesday, after an election marred by deadly unrest and a boycott by the opposition who promised to set up a rival “transitional” government.
The standoff pitches francophone West Africa’s biggest economy deeper into a crisis that erupted in August when Ouattara said he would run for a third term, angering the opposition who accused him of carrying out an “electoral coup”.
The election commission said Ouattara won 94 per cent of the vote and that turnout had been 53.9 per cent. The landslide victory had been widely expected after two leading opposition leaders pulled out of the election and called their supporters to boycott it.
Pre-election clashes killed at least 30 and anti-Ouattara protests have stoked fears of a repeat of a crisis a decade ago when 3,000 people died in fighting after then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by Ouattara.
Hours before the results, the opposition said they would create a transitional government, insisting Ouattara’s mandate was over as he had broken the country’s two-term presidential limit.
Ouattara, first elected in 2010, says a 2016 consitutional reform allowed him to run again.
“The opposition parties and groups announce the creation of a council of national transition,” Pascal Affi N’Guessan told reporters on Monday night. “This council’s mission will be to… create a transitional government within the next few hours.”
He said it would work to hold “a fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election”.
“Keeping Mr Ouattara as head of state could lead to civil war,” he added.
There was no immediate response from the government over the opposition announcement.
N’Guessan said the transitional council would be led by opposition veteran Henri Konan Bedie, 86, a former president and long-term rival of Ouattara.
An African Union observer mission said on Monday that the election was “generally satisfactory”. In contrast, a mission from the US watchdog Carter Center said “the overall context and process did not allow for a genuinely competitive election”.
“The process excluded a number of Ivorian political forces and was hampered by an active boycott.”
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. He says a constitutional court ruling approved his move, allowing him to reset the country’s two-term presidential limit.
When Côte d’Ivoire emerged from the civil war after 2002, the country was split in two, the north held by rebels and the south by forces of then-president Gbagbo. Ouattara won a long-postponed election in 2010 although Gbagbo refused to accept defeat and Abidjan became a battleground. French forces eventually intervened to help Ouattara loyalists oust the former president.