Ivory Coast's top court on Monday cleared the way for President Alassane Ouattara to run for a contentious third term in the upcoming presidential election as several cities saw violent protests.
The Constitutional Council barred some of Ouattara's opponents, including former President Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader turned prime minister, Soro Guillaume, but allowed the candidacy of former President Henri Konan Bedie, Gbagbo's former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan, and Kouadio Konan Bertin, a dissident from Bedie's PDCI party.
The electoral commission said anyone convicted of a crime will be disqualified from running for the presidency. Soro was barred because he was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison for "concealment of embezzlement of public funds," while Gbagbo has been sentenced in absentia to a 20-year term over the looting of the local branch of the Central Bank of West African States during the 2010-11 Ivorian post-election crisis.
According to media reports, clashes broke out between security forces and youths in the district of Yopougon, following which protesters set a bus ablaze.
The working-class district in the economic capital of Abidjan is considered a fiefdom of exiled ex-President Gbagbo. Gbagbo's supporters had filed the application for his run in the October 31 election.
In 2010, Gbagbo refused to accept defeat against Ouattara in the presidential elections. What followed was a bloody conflict that left 3,000 people dead.
Tensions were high on Monday over fears of a repeat of the bloodshed.
In Bangolo, demonstrators reportedly torched a mining truck and other vehicles before being dispersed with tear gas.
At least 15 people have died in the violence that ensued after Ouattara's August announcement to run for a third term.
The West African nation's constitution has a two-term limit for the top office but Ouattara and his supporters argue that a 2016 constitutional change reset his presidency.
The president had earlier committed to not run for another term, but changed his mind after his designated successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died of a heart attack in July.
dvv/dr (AFP, Reuters)