Ivory Coast Electoral Body Rules Out Delay of Oct. 31 Vote

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Ivory Coast’s electoral commission won’t consider delaying Oct. 31 elections in which President Alassane Ouattara will seek a third term, despite protests from the opposition that conditions for a fair vote are lacking.

“There are no reasons to justify a postponement,” Ibrahime Coulibaly-Kuibiert, head of the commission, said in an interview Friday. The voters roll is in place and 35,000 security agents will be deployed nationwide to monitor balloting, he said.

The world’s top cocoa producer is headed for a tense election amid growing opposition against Ouattara’s bid to extend his 10-year tenure by an additional five years, following the death earlier this year of his chosen successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly. At least 14 people died in clashes after Ouattara announced his plan, and there are concerns that fresh violence may erupt during the vote.

The opposition is planning a rally Saturday in a stadium in the commercial capital, Abidjan, to protest Ouattara’s decision to run again.

TheInternational Crisis Group last month called for a brief postponement to settle a dispute between the ruling party and the opposition over the legal framework of the election, including the voters roll. And, in a joint statement this week, the Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations and the African Union voiced “deep concern” over the lack of trust among Ivorian politicians and incidents of “hate speech with ethnic overtones.”

Read More: Ivory Coast Expands Electoral Body After Opposition Complaints

Ouattara’s main challenger, former President Henri Konan Bedie, and Pascal Affi N’Guessan, the leader of a smaller opposition party, refused to send representatives to an election ceremony on Friday. They haven’t said whether they will boycott the vote.

“The law requires them to meet the conditions of a candidate,” Coulibaly-Kuibiert said. “It’s up to them whether they participate or not.”

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