Ivory Coast’s parliament has approved making changes to remove a contentious nationality rule for anyone running for the presidency.
The rule currently requires both parents of presidential candidates to be native-born Ivorians and has been seen to be particularly limiting for northern Ivorians with close links to other countries. The new constitution, Reuters reports, will require only one parent of a presidential candidate to be Ivorian by origin. The parliament also approved removing age limits for presidential candidates. The current age limit is 75.
Current president Alassane Ouattara, a northern Ivorian elected in 2010, had been barred from contesting previous elections because of uncertainty about his father’s nationality. After being excluded from prior elections, Ouattara successfully contested in 2010, but his victory came at a high cost. Laurent Gbagbo, Ouattara’s opponent, refused to concede victory, stoking long-held propaganda views that Ouattara was a “foreigner and stooge for France.” The country broke into a civil war which left over 3,000 people dead.
Presenting the new draft of the constitution to the parliament last week, Ouattara said the changes were necessary to “reinforce social cohesion” and “stability” in Ivory Coast. “It is also the opportunity to definitely move on from the past crisis that our country went through,” he said. Opposition figures called the changes “undemocratic,” claiming they will allow Ouattara, 74, to stay in power beyond the next elections expected to be held in 2020.
Following the parliament’s approval, the new constitution will go to a public referendum on Oct. 30.