Ivory Coast’s Ouattara says he won’t seek third term in October election

Côte d’Ivoire President Elassane Ouattara said Thursday that he would not stand for election in October, ending speculation about his political future before a much-awaited vote.

Ouattara had previously said he would run if his longtime rivals were candidates, defying opponents who argue that the constitution does not give him the right to seek a third term.

But he said in a speech to lawmakers that he would cede power to a new generation after 10 years in power.

“I decided not to be a candidate in the presidential election on October 31 and to transfer power to a new generation,” said Ouattara, eliciting applause, cheers and gasps from spectators in the capital. Yamoussoukro.

Ouattara was first elected president of Côte d’Ivoire, 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. About 3,000 people died in the violence.

Political tensions have increased in recent months after the government issued an arrest warrant against Guillaume Soro, presidential candidate and former rebel leader whose forces brought Ouattara to power in 2011.

Ouattara’s two main rivals, Gbagbo and another former president, Henri Konan Bedie, have yet to say whether they will run for office in October.    REUTERS