DAKAR, Senegal—Mohammed Ouattara, an activist from Cote d’Ivoire who lives in exile in Senegal, doesn’t mince words when speaking about his country’s recent presidential elections. “It’s a constitutional coup d’état,” he told me, as we sat in a café along the corniche in Dakar. “He doesn’t have the right to be a candidate,” he said, his eyes wide and intense. “He stole the elections.”
Ouattara was referring to Cote d’Ivoire’s president, Alassane Ouattara, who was reelected to a controversial third term last month in a landslide, according to election officials, although his two main opponents had boycotted the vote and have refused to recognize the outcome. (The two are not related.) Official results showed Ouattara won 94 percent of ballots cast, but only half of registered voters turned out to vote after the opposition called for a boycott. The Constitutional Court had ruled in September that only four of the country’s 44 presidential hopefuls would be allowed to run, and international observers have questioned the legitimacy of the results.
Like many other young Ivorians, Mohammed Ouattara sees the president’s divisive decision to seek a third terms as jeopardizing his country’s fragile peace over the past decade. “By holding onto power, he is creating chaos in Cote d’Ivoire,” he said.