Ivory Coast 'not ready' for vote, opposition says

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Abidjan (AFP) - Five of Ivory Coast's 10 presidential candidates on Wednesday said the country is "not ready" to hold a "credible and transparent" vote on October 25, threatening to pull out of the race.

The opponents, mainly from the opposition National Coalition for Change (CNC), were speaking at a rally attended by hundreds of supporters in the capital Abidjan.

"Some presidential candidates are not ready to run for office in the current conditions," warned former parliament speaker Mamadou Coulibaly.

"If, in the next 48 hours, we have not had a clear discussion, we will announce it," he added, stopping short of explicitly threatening a boycott.

"The nine candidates (challenging President Alassane Ouattara)... must sit together and talk," he said.

Other opposition candidates for the top job, including former prime minister Charles Konan Banny, lashed out against the independent electoral commission (CEI) which they consider favourable to Ouattara.

"Less than three weeks away from the vote, none of the candidates have seen the electoral list and the CEI has not yet distributed voting cards," Coulibaly said.

"The candidates are not ready, the CEI is not ready, none of the candidates have been on television," he added.

The criticism came after former foreign affairs minister Amara Essy announced he was pulling out of the race because he wanted "to avoid becoming an accomplice in an electoral masquerade".

Last week, the dissenting candidates led a demonstration denouncing the way the vote was being organised.

Ouattara, who is widely expected to win reelection, has led the former economic powerhouse of west Africa through a revival after a conflict that divided the country into a rebel-held north and a loyalist south for almost a decade.

The conflict culminated after 2010 elections won by Ouattara. Then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to the former deputy head of the International Monetary Fund, triggering five months of bloodshed in which over 3,000 people were killed.

Gbagbo is now awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court.