BOUAKE, Ivory Coast, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara rejected calls for negotiations on Friday from rivals urging a boycott of an Oct. 31 election they say he should not be standing for.
Ouattara’s main challengers, ex-President Henri Konan Bedie and ex-prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, accuse the 78-year-old former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economist of violating the constitution by standing for a third term.
Protests against Ouattara’s candidacy have killed more than a dozen people since August.
Thousands of cheering supporters greeted Ouattara in Bouake, the capital of the rebellion that swept him to power in 2011 after a disputed election, as his convoy sped into town to officially launch his campaign.
“The dialogue has already happened. Let’s go to elections. There won’t be any delay,” Ouattara, who is widely considered the election favourite, told local chiefs later in the day, adding that he would not accept international mediation.
“No one is coming here to negotiate anything.”
This year’s election is a test of stability for Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer. Ouattara’s victory in the 2010 election led to a brief civil war that killed 3,000 people after incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede.
Ouattara’s decision in August to run again after initially saying he would not has stirred frictions. He disputes the opposition’s claims that he cannot run again, arguing a new constitution approved in 2016 reset his two-term limit.
Affi and Bedie reiterated their calls for a boycott on Friday, urging civil disobedience to block election rallies and the distribution of voting cards.
“We will fight until the end because our combat is just,” Affi told supporters in Abidjan. (Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)
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