YAMOUSSOUKRO (Reuters) - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on Thursday he would not stand for re-election in October, ending speculation about his political future ahead of a highly-anticipated vote.
Ouattara had previously said he would run if two of his longtime political rivals were candidates, defying opponents who say the constitution does not give him the right to seek a third term.
But he declared in a speech before lawmakers that he would hand over power to a new generation after 10 years in office.
“I have decided not to be candidate in the Oct. 31 presidential election and to transfer power to a new generation,” Ouattara said, prompting applause, cheers and gasps from audience members in the capital Yamoussoukro.
Ouattara was first elected president of Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producer, in a 2010 election that sparked a brief civil war when his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to concede defeat. Around 3,000 people died in the violence.
Political tensions have been on the rise in recent months after the government issued an arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, a presidential candidate and former rebel leader whose forces swept Ouattara to power in 2011.
Ouattara’s two main rivals, Gbagbo and another former president, Henri Konan Bedie, have not yet said whether they will be candidates in October.
Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Aaron Ross