May 15, 2015 / 8:19 PM / in 3 years

Ivory Coast opposition forms coalition to take on Ouattara

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Thirteen Ivory Coast political figures, including a former prime minister and an opposition leader, formed a coalition on Friday to challenge incumbent President Alassane Ouattara in elections later this year.

A general view of the investiture ceremony of Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara as the presidential candidate of the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) ruling coalition at Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Ivory Coast is emerging from a decade of turmoil, and previous presidential elections that have been marked by violence and the exclusion of leading politicians.

Ouattara, who took office in 2011 following a brief post-election civil war, has steered the world’s top cocoa grower to an economic revival and is widely expected to secure a second five-year term in polls due in October.

“We are for transparent elections,” former parliament speaker Mamadou Koulibaly, leader of Lider, one of the parties in the new opposition coalition, told journalists.

“Our priority isn’t who will be candidate. We must first negotiate the conditions for the election.”

Ouattara has already secured the backing of his principal coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI). And ex-President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), the only major opposition party, is deeply divided.

The new political formation, known as the National Coalition for Change (CNC), draws heavily upon PDCI dissidents, including ex-Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, former foreign affairs minister Amara Essy and Kouadio Konan Bertin, previously the leader of the party’s youth wing.

However, Aboudramane Sangare, who heads a faction of FPI hardliners, also signed the coalition’s charter in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Sangare and his supporters have previously demanded the release of Gbagbo, who is awaiting trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, as a precondition for their return to the political mainstream.

Ivory Coast’s civil war, which killed more than 3,000 people, broke out after Gbagbo refused to recognize his defeat by Ouattara in elections in late 2010.

Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Louise Ireland

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