ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The party of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo withdrew from the country’s election commission on Sunday, setting back efforts to draw it into the political mainstream before a scheduled presidential election next year.
Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) boycotted parliamentary polls in 2011 and local elections last year.
Negotiations in recent months between President Alassane Ouattara’s government and the FPI, however, had led to the party agreeing to participate in the elections commission, raising hopes it would take part in next year’s poll.
But a meeting of the party leadership decided on Sunday to withdraw from the Independent Elections Commission (CEI), claiming Ouattara and his allies were over-represented in the body.
“The FPI is withdrawing from the commission for reasons it has already evoked. We remain open to negotiations,” Franck Bamba, a member of the party’s communications department, told Reuters.
The Alliance of Democratic Forces, Ivory Coast’s FPI-dominated opposition bloc, announced last week the suspension of its participation in the commission following an internal election to choose the body’s leadership.
“We ask the government to keep the FPI’s seat in the CEI warm,” Joel N‘Guessan, the spokesman for Ouattara’s party, the Rally of the Republicans, said in a statement. “We are convinced they will rejoin the group once the passions and emotions have diminished.”
Gbagbo’s refusal to acknowledge defeat to Ouattara in a 2010 poll sparked a brief civil war that killed some 3,000 people. He is now in The Hague charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity.
He won nearly 46 percent of votes in the run-off poll, and donor nations hoped that the FPI’s participation in the election next year would lend credibility to the vote and foster reconciliation in a still politically divided country.
Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Cynthia Osterman