Ivory Coast’s opposition declared it will no longer recognise Laurent Gbagbo as president – a move likely to complicate his efforts to form a new government, after he dissolved the old one along with the West African country’s electoral commission.
The four-party opposition coalition RHDP urged supporters to mobilise against the governing party, setting the scene for a possible violent demonstration in a country once seen as Africa’s model of stability and economic prosperity.
Mr Gbagbo’s place in power is tenuous. Five years after his term ended, Ivory Coast has yet to hold a presidential election to replace him, having cancelled several dates since 2005.
RHDP leader Djedje Madi said the president’s dismissal of the government and election board on Friday was “antidemocratic and anticonstitutional”, and tantamount to “a coup d’etat”.
“We no longer recognise Laurent Gbagbo as president of the republic,” Mr Madi said, adding that the opposition would not participate in forming a new government.
The tensions rose after Mr Gbagbo’s party demanded the head of the independent election commission resign amid accusations he was behind an attempt to add nearly a half-million illegitimate voters onto the rolls.
Opposition supporters accuse the ruling party of trying to disqualify voters who are not allied with Mr Gbagbo.
Mr Gbagbo asked Prime Minister Guillaume Soro to stay on to form a new government. Mr Soro was the top rebel leader before a 2007 peace deal ended the country’s brief civil war and established the now-defunct government.
A spokeswoman for the opposition RDR party said Mr Gbagbo’s dissolution of the government was a step toward dictatorship. “We cannot let this dictatorship establish itself,” Anne Ouloto said.
The independent PIT party, allied with neither the opposition nor the president, also condemned the move.
“It runs in the face of all the peace accords we’ve signed since 2004,” party secretary general Francois Kouablan said.
“That today the president thinks he has the powers to do this gives the impression that we’ve gone back 20 years.”
Mr Gbagbo’s FPI party defended his actions, saying a political deadlock has kept the voter registry from being completed.
“We want to have the elections as quickly as possible, but first we’re going to have to fix the rolls,” FPI election coordinator Martin Sokouri Bohui said.