Ivory Coast bloodshed feared from junta

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The Independent Online

Ivory Coast faces a tense start to campaigning for its presidential elections when a junta-imposed state of emergency expires tonight amid fears of a backlash against a ban on all but five of the poll's 19 candidates.

Ivory Coast faces a tense start to campaigning for its presidential elections when a junta-imposed state of emergency expires tonight amid fears of a backlash against a ban on all but five of the poll's 19 candidates.

The cocoa-rich West African country, which has been under military rule since a Christmas Eve coup last year, is due to pass to civilian government after elections on 22 October.

But the junta's leader, General Robert Guei, who is himself a candidate, is being accused of wishing to rig the poll in favour of an élite. At 6pm tonight, the state of emergency - which was enforced to stop violence after Friday's Supreme Court ruling on the candidates - is due to expire. Observers expect a fierce reaction from supporters of the former prime minister Alassane Ouattara, who is among those banned.

Amid seething xenophobia this year, General Guei has accused Mr Ouattara of being a national of neighbouring Burkina Faso, thus making him ineligible for the poll. Last Friday, thousands of Burkinabe guest workers fled Ivory Coast, fearing xenophobic attacks.

Apart from General Guei, the candidates approved by the supreme court appear to represent a broad spectrum ofinterests.

Laurent Gbagbo, a socialist, has been the principal opponent of the junta. Nicolas Dioulo, an independent, is a former official of Unesco, the United Nations education body.

Francis Wodie and Theodore Mel Eg are close to President Henri Konan Bedie, who was toppled last year and has been living in France.

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