A risky referendum: Ivory Coast

20161027_dap306Constitutional referendums are becoming a regular fixture of African politics. Next up is Ivory Coast, which on Sunday holds a vote on a new draft constitution. President Alassane Ouattara wants to scrap a controversial rule that says the president’s parents must have been born in the country—a stipulation that twice stopped the former IMF economist from running (he was later cleared to stand under the terms of a peace plan).

The change is overdue: tensions between narrowly defined Ivorians and those, like Mr Ouattara, with roots in neighbouring Burkina Faso contributed to civil war in the 2000s. But critics cite a lack of public consultation, and fret that the changes will allow Mr Ouattara to install a hand-picked successor before he stands down in 2020.

Debate has been acrimonious, with 23 opposition parties rejecting the draft. Ivory Coast remains a relatively peaceful (if fragile) democracy in an unstable region; Ivorians will hope Sunday’s vote doesn’t change that.



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