Ivory Coast constitutional referendum passes, opponents cry foul

By Patrick Fort

Abidjan (AFP) – An opposition-boycotted referendum to change Ivory Coast’s constitution has easily passed, elec- toral officials said, but opponents swiftly dismissed the vote as fraudulent. President Alassane Ouattara said the changes were necessary to help end years of instability linked to disputes over national identity while critics labelled the vote an attempt to line up a successor for when his term ends in 2020.

The “Yes” camp won 93 percent of votes cast in Sunday’s constitutional referendum, but most eligible voters stayed at home, following the opposi- tion call to boycott, with the official turnout rate put at just over 42 percent. An opposition leader quickly dismissed the official results as “fake.”
The package, put to the country’s 6.3 million voters, also includes creating a post of vice president as well as a senate, a third of whom would be ap- pointed by the head of state. The measures have alarmed opposition leaders and prompted accusations that Ouattara is trying to instal a sympathetic successor.
“More than 90 percent… of Ivorians have understood the need to turn the page on our shameful ways,” Joel N’Gues- san Joel N’Guessan, spokesman for Ouattara’s Rally of Republicans Party (RDR), told AFP.

A man holds a banner that reads in French, “No to a President for life”, during a protest march against the new Ivory Coast draft constitution in Abidjan

The 42 percent turnout rate was “honourable,” he added.

But Pascal Affi Nguessan, head of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), said the election results were “obviously faked.”

The official numbers “do not match reality. We all witnessed an electoral desert (on Sunday),” he added, referring to the turnout.

He spoke of cases of “corruption and ballot-stuffing”, insisting that the real turnout rate was no higher than 10 percent.

“The coming battle” is to mo- bilise support for parliamen- tary elections, at a date yet to be fixed, in order to overturn the new constitution, he told AFP.

American influences

The constitutional changes no- tably get rid of a contested clause on national identity that took effect in 2000 and stipu- lated that both parents of a presidential candidate must be born on Ivorian soil and not have sought nationality in an- other country. The issue has contributed to years of unrest in the world’s top cocoa producer. Violent episodes in the West African country include a coup in 1999, a civil war in 2002 that split the nation between its north and south and a bloody post-election crisis in 2010.

The most recent eruption led to months of post-poll bloodshed with then-president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to step down. Some 3,000 people died and Gbagbo is now on trial in The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ouattara, 74, hails from central Ivory Coast but his father was born in neighbouring Burkina Faso and the issue of “Ivorian- ness” raised a hurdle in his bid for the presidency.

He eventually overcame this ob- stacle through a decree Gbagbo was pressured to sign by the in- ternational community.

The Ivorian parliament had al- ready approved the new constitu- tion. The government claims that the introduction of a vice presi- dent is to ensure continuity if the head of state dies or is incapacitated. The new constitution’s de- sign bears American influences, perhaps a reflection of Outtara’s years studying in Pennsylvania: a strong executive, a senate, fixed election dates and a vice president.

A former top official at the Inter- national Monetary Fund (IMF) and Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), Ouat- tara is credited with making good use of his contacts to pump in- vestment into the war-scarred economy since taking office in 2011.

After a decade of unrest and a civil war that saw the once pros- perous former French colony split in two, Ouattara has over- seen major infrastructure works including new roads, bridges and dams. He eventually overcame this obstacle through a decree Gbagbo was pressured to sign by the international community.

The Ivorian parliament had already approved the new constitution. The government claims that the introduction of a vice president is to ensure con- tinuity if the head of state dies or is incapacitated. The new constitution’s de- signbearsAmericaninflu- ences, perhaps a reflection of Outtara’s years studying in Pennsylvania: a strong executive, a senate, fixed election dates and a vice president.

A former top official at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), Ouattara is credited with making good use of his contacts to pump investment into the war-scarred economy since taking office in 2011.
After a decade of unrest and a civil war that saw the once prosperous for- mer French colony split in two, Ouattara has overseen major infrastructure works including new roads, bridges and dams.

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Posted by on Nov 16 2016. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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