Ivorian opposition seeks return to political mainstream in polls

A woman shows her finger after casting her vote at a polling station during the legislative elections Abidjan, Ivory Coast December 18, 2016. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

ABIDJAN – Voters in Ivory Coast cast their ballots in parliamentary polls on Sunday as the main opposition party seeks to challenge President Alassane Ouattara’s near monopoly of the legislature.

The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) has largely boycotted politics since a 2011 war which saw then President Laurent Gbagbo, its founder, ousted and many of its leaders jailed.

More than 3,000 people were killed in the brief 2011 civil war that followed Gbagbo’s refusal to accept his defeat to Outtara in elections. Since then, the world’s top cocoa grower has drawn back investors and the economy is set to grow by 8 percent this year.

Despite a steady drizzle, dozens of people gathered outside polling stations early on Sunday in the opposition stronghold of Yopougon in the commercial capital of Abidjan.

“Our candidate needs to get in,” said 32-year old Jean Adepo. There were no signs of tensions.

Ouattara’s coalition RHDP, which is suffering from some internal divisions, is promising more growth for the French-speaking West African country.

But the FPI says there is a need for a strong counterweight to Ouattara in order for there to be long-term stability amid complaints from rights groups that national reconciliation has stalled.

The FPI will field 186 candidates for the 255 parliament seats. Ouattara’s supporters hold about 85 percent of seats in the outgoing National Assembly.

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