Police in Ivory Coast fired tear gas on Monday to break up demonstrations against President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to run for a third term in office that opponents say jeopardises the West Afrian country’s democracy.
Protesters set up barricades and shut down down traffic in several towns including the commercial capital Abidjan, where a burning bus sent high plumes of black smoke from the densely-populated Yopogoun district. Demonstrators also torched a truck in the western city of Bangolo, witnesses said.
Violent protests have rocked Ivory Coast since Ouattara, in power since 2010, said he would run for a third term in elections scheduled for October 31. Over a dozen people have died in clashes between protesters and police since August.
The constitution says the president can only stay in power for two terms, but Ouattara has argued that the publication of a new constitution in 2016 reset his terms.
The unrest has political observers worried that the polls could destabilise Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer and French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy. A disputed election in 2010 led to a brief civil war that killed over 3,000.
Monday’s protests come ahead of the country’s Constitutional Council decision, expected on Wednesday, on the eligibility of election candidates, including Ouattara.
Forty-four candidates including former presidents Henry Konan Bedie and Laurent Gbagbo, and former rebel leader Soro Guillaume, have submitted paperwork to stand in the election, but is it is unclear whether Gbagbo and Soro would be able to run due to court procedures against them.
Ouattara had announced in March that he will not run, but revised his decision after the sudden death of his handpicked successor Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly in July.