Voting is underway in the Ivory Coast as President Alassane Ouattara seeks a third contested term in an election that two of the four candidates have urged their supporters to boycott.

The vote is seen as a test of stability as 30 people have been killed in pre-election violence, evoking the memories of the 2010 vote, which unleashed a brief civil war that killed 3,000 people after former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

“Why is it important for me to come and vote? I want the situation in the country to be clarified so that all of us can live in peace,” said Barakissa Cissé, a shopkeeper.

Boycott

Ouattara,78, initially told supporters he would step down but he decided to run again after his chosen successor died suddenly in July.

The president says he can run again under a new constitution approved in 2016. But his opponents say he is breaking the law as the constitution limits presidents to two-term.

Ouattara’s two main rivals former president Henri Konan Bedie and former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, have called for an election boycott.

But voters turned out when polling stations opened at 8:00 am (0700 GMT).

“It’s a way of showing that we want a change, that’s what we’re here for, to show that we agree or disagree, so it’s in the ballot box,” said Mohamed Fofana, a student.

Appeal for calm

Bedie and opposition leaders also accuse the electoral commission and the constitutional court of favouring the government.

The ballot in French-speaking West Africa’s economic powerhouse, which is the world’s biggest cocoa producer, is a crunch test for the region.

Nigeria is facing widespread social protests, Mali is emerging from a coup and jihadist violence wracks the Sahel.

The UN has urged calm and 35,000 police and security force officials have been mobilised to secure the election.

Source

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