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23.12.2020 Ivory Coast

Ex-president Gbagbo's party says ending 10-year boycott of I.Coast elections

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo still has a strong following at home.  By Jerry LAMPEN (ANP/AFP)
LISTEN DEC 23, 2020
Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo still has a strong following at home. By Jerry LAMPEN (ANP/AFP)

The party of ousted Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo said Wednesday it was ending a 10-year boycott of elections, a move coinciding with efforts to end a prolonged political crisis.

"The Ivorian Popular Front... will take part in legislative elections" due in the first quarter of 2021, the party announced in a statement following a meeting of its central committee.

The party, known by its acronym in French of PFI, vowed it would "give itself the means to win" the vote and would work with other opposition parties.

The announcement coincides with moves to scale down a months-long crisis sparked by President Alassane Ouattara decision to seek a third term -- a move that the opposition branded unconstitutional.

Ouattara, 78, won the October 31 vote by a landslide as every major opposition candidate boycotted the polls.

But election-related violence claimed scores of lives, sparking fears that the country could spiral back into conflict.

Gbagbo, 75, was ousted in 2011 after refusing to concede defeat to Ouattara in presidential elections, triggering violence that claimed around 3,000 lives.

Ouattara's camp has recently held talks with the opposition, and the president himself has offered an olive branch to his erstwhile rival.

Gbagbo and his former right-hand man, Charles Ble Goude, 48, were tried on charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

They were acquitted in 2019, and remain free pending the outcome of an appeal.

The PFI had boycotted all elections after Gbagbo's arrest in 2011 and his transfer to the ICC.

The FPI's secretary general, Assoa Adou, told AFP, "Most of the members are willing to take part in the elections and president Gbagbo is in favour."

The party is split into a pro-Gbagbo faction and another headed by his former prime minister, Pascal Affi N'Guessan.

Despite their past enmity, Ouattara has several times in recent months said he favoured his rival's return, apparently seeing in it a potential for easing the public mood.

On December 4, Gbagbo's attorney said he had obtained an ordinary passport and a diplomatic passport from the Ivorian authorities and planned to return home this month.

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