ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s opposition leaders rallied at the state television station and electoral commission on Monday to call for a new electoral body to replace one they said is biased in favor of President Alassane Ouattara’s government.
Ouattara is tipped to win a second term at the Oct. 25 election after presiding over rapid economic growth in the wake of civil wars in 2002 and 2010, but his bid has been met with some unrest.
Around 500-700 people including five of 10 presidential candidates attended Monday’s demonstration in the economic capital Abidjan, according to a Reuters journalist. Police said attendance was closer to 300.
“It has been a year since we called on President Ouattara to open a dialogue,” presidential candidate Bertin Kouako Konan told journalists. “We are asking for the electoral commission to be balanced because currently it is controlled by the regime.”
Protesters also called for fair access to state television and regular coverage of their activities.
They carried banners saying, “We want elections with zero deaths,” and danced in front of police officers, gendarmes and soldiers. At least one person died and others were injured in two days of protests against Ouattara’s bid this month.
Protesters question Ouattara’s national origins. The issue of national identity was among the central causes of years of turmoil, including the two civil wars.
The electoral commission is charged with finalizing the electoral register, the list of presidential candidates and organizing next month’s vote. Its members were appointed by Ouattara and the opposition says they are too close to him.
Opposition leaders also maintain that prosecutions of people for war crimes during the 2010-2011 civil war have focused mostly on supporters of previous president Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept election defeat triggered that conflict.
Reporting by Ange Aboa; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg/Mark Heinrich