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Ivory Coast pledges fair vote, Ouattara asked to run again

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s electoral commission promised a fair election on Wednesday as the ruling RHDP party asked President Alassane Ouattara to stand again, defying opponents who say he does not have the constitutional right to a third term.

The election is seen as the biggest test yet of the tenuous stability achieved since a brief civil war killed about 3,000 people in 2010 and 2011.

The election commission’s role is particularly sensitive.

A dispute over Ouattara’s 2010 poll victory sparked the conflict and opposition parties suspect local election offices favour Ouattara.

The national election commission plans to reform these offices and consult all parties in the run-up to the vote, its president, Ibrahime Coulibaly Kuibert, told Reuters.

“Our primary objective is to make our process credible and transparent,” he said.

The presidential race was upset earlier this month by the death of the preferred successor of Ouattara, after the 78-year-old economist had said he would not stand again.

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“I HAVE NEVER DISAPPOINTED”

Responding to a formal request from his party on Wednesday to run for re-election, Ouattara asked for some time to consider, but added: “You know I have never disappointed you.”

Addressing party members, he said he would announce his decision in a speech to the nation.

He is due to make a public address on Aug. 6.

Opponents say the two-term limit in the constitution bars him from standing again, but Ouattara has said his first two mandates do not count under the new charter from 2016.

The other main confirmed candidate is Henri Konan Bedie, who was president from 1993-1999 and leads one of Ivory Coast’s largest parties, the PDCI.

Bedie told France 24 television he had agreed with former president Laurent Gbagbo that their parties would back the other’s candidate in the event of a second round run-off against Ouattara.

Gbagbo, who resides in Belgium and was acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court last year, has not yet confirmed he will run as candidate of his FPI party. But his application for travel documents to return to Ivory Coast has raised expectations an announcement could be imminent.

Reporting by Ange Aboa and Loucoumane Coulibaly; Additional reporting by Aaron Ross; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister and Andrew Cawthorne

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