Ivory Coast Constitutional Council chief replaced

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The president of Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council, who backed former president Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat in an election last November, has been dismissed, the new head of the top legal body confirmed yesterday.

Francis Wodie, an academic, former legislator and head of the Ivorian Labour Party, will replace Paul Yao N’Dre, whose decision to back Gbagbo’s refusal to step down plunged the West African state back into civil war.
“Effectively, I was named today. I am president of the Constitutional Council from now on,” Wodie told Reuters by telephone. President Alassane Ouattara named him on Monday.

The council is the highest legal body on elections and will judge the outcome of legislative polls scheduled for this year.

N’Dre, a staunch ally of Gbagbo whom the former president appointed ahead of the November 28 presidential poll, was a key component of his strategy to remain in power despite losing the election by a near 8-point margin.

Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat triggered a violent power struggle with Ouattara that killed 3,000 people, displaced more than a million and ruined the economy of the once prosperous top cocoa producer.

The electoral commission pronounced Ouattara winner of the U.N.-certified poll, but Gbagbo refused to concede. N’Dre then cancelled half a million votes in Ouattara strongholds to reverse his win, alleging fraud by rebels who controlled them.

When Gbagbo was ousted by French-backed pro-Ouattara forces in April, N’Dre fled, but was persuaded to return and undo the decision, swearing in Ouattara in May in a tense ceremony.

Gbagbo and many senior aides are detained in the north, awaiting trial for alleged war crimes and corruption charges.