By Jorge Joaquim
Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council has formally ratified President Alassane Ouattara’s re-election to a third term after a tense election that was marred by clashes and an opposition boycott.
“Alassane Ouattara is proclaimed elected in the first round,” Council President Mamadou Kone said on Monday in a national broadcast.
Kone added that “no serious irregularities” were noted during the October 31 presidential election, confirming the results that gave the 78-year-old more than 94 percent votes.
Opposition leaders had called on supporters to boycott the electoral process, saying Ouattara’s bid for a third term was unconstitutional. While Ivory Coast has a limit of two presidential terms, Ouattara insists a new constitution in 2016 allows him to run again.
On Saturday, opposition leader and former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan was placed under arrest for creating a rival transitional government. Other adversaries to the current president are under investigation for insurrection, with prosecutors pursuing “terrorism” charges against more than a dozen of those who called for an election boycott.
In early March, Ouattara said he would not seek another mandate, seemingly ending months of speculation that he would try to extend his stay beyond the two-term mandates.
However, Ouattara revised his position five months later following the sudden death of his handpicked successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly
Nearly 50 people have been killed in clashes since Ouattara first announced he would run for the third term in August, fuelling fears Ivory Coast could slide into the kind of widespread unrest it suffered after a disputed 2010 vote.
New clashes between rival ethnic communities broke out on Monday in central eastern Daoukro, a stronghold of opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie, officials said. Deadly violence also erupted there in the lead up to the election.
“Inter-community clashes in Daoukro left three dead and 41 wounded on Monday,” local government administrator Solange Aka told AFP news agency.
She said one person had been decapitated and another burned as protesters barricaded roads.
The death toll was confirmed by the president of the regional council Adam Kolia Traore.
Much of the violence over the election involved clashes between local ethnic groups allied with the opposition and Dioula communities seen as close to Ouattara, himself a Muslim from the north.
Opposition protesters and police clashed earlier on Monday in Abidjan’s Yopougon district, where a minibus was set ablaze, an AFP reporter said. Disturbances also broke out in the capital, Yamoussoukro, and in the opposition strongholds of Bouadikro and Bongouanou, residents said.
The high tensions surrounding the vote raised concerns about the continued stability of the world’s top cocoa producer, a country still recovering from months of post-election violence in 2010 and 2011 that killed some 3,000 people.
The United Nations said on Monday that some 3,600 Ivorians have fled to neighbouring Liberia. Hundreds more headed to neighbouring Togo and Ghana.