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Tensions high as Ivory Coast votes in presidential polls

Summary

At least 30 killed in violence ahead of polls as President Ouattara seeks a third term in office. Ivory Coast is voting in tense election after an opposition boycott and clashes over President Alassane Ouattara’s contested attempt to secure a […]

At least 30 killed in violence ahead of polls as President Ouattara seeks a third term in office.

Ivory Coast is voting in tense election after an opposition boycott and clashes over President Alassane Ouattara’s contested attempt to secure a third term.

At least 30 people have been killed in pre-election violence, evoking memories of a 2010-11 crisis that killed about 3,000 people.

Polling stations opened at 8am (08:00 GMT) and will close at 6pm (18:00 GMT).

In Saturday’s vote, Ouattara’s main challengers will be former President Henri Konan Bedie and ex-Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan.

The opposition leaders called for an election boycott and civil disobedience, though they have not formally withdrawn their candidacies.

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The fourth challenger is independent candidate Kouadio Konan Bertin.

Ouattara, 78, was supposed to step aside after his second term to make way for a younger generation, but the sudden death of his chosen successor forced a change in plan.

The Ivorian leader, a former IMF official who has been in power since 2010, says a Constitutional Court ruling approved his third term, allowing him to bypass two-term presidential limits after a 2016 legal reform.

But Bedie and opposition leaders say a third mandate is unconstitutional.

They accuse the electoral commission and the Constitutional Court of favouring the government, making a fair and transparent vote impossible.

The United Nations has urged calm, but the opposition called for a campaign of civil disobedience to stop the vote, stoking fears of more violence in opposition strongholds.

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More than 35,000 police and security personnel have been mobilised to secure the election.

The run-up to the polls saw sporadic clashes in the south of the country, mainly between local ethnic groups close to the opposition and Diaolu communities from the north who are seen as loyal to the president.

The country’s political feuds are often closely tied up with its leader’s ethnic identities and regional loyalties.

On Friday, police fired tear gas in the political capital of Yamoussoukro to break up fighting between Diaolu youth and opposition-aligned Baoule communities, according to residents.

Under the constitution, the electoral commission has five days to announce the results.

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President Ouattara says a Constitutional Court ruling approved his third term [Legnan Koula/EPA]

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