Ex-president Gbagbo's party to boycott I.Coast local poll

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo's party announced Thursday it would boycott the regional and local elections scheduled for April 21, saying the vote would not be fair.

"No member of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) should take part in any way in these elections," said the chief opposition party's spokesman and interim secretary general, Richard Kodjo.

The boycott comes amid lingering tensions from a post-election standoff between Gbagbo and current President Alassane Ouattara in 2010-2011 that killed some 3,000 people.

Kodjo said the boycott means that FPI members are discouraged from appearing on electoral lists, campaigning and above all from voting, or risk "exposing themselves to disciplinary sanctions under our rules".

He also said his party would not recognise the results of what he called a "sham election", accusing the country's independent electoral commission of being incompetent and illegal and in need of reform.

The party is also seeking a "reconciliation" meeting between Ouattara and Gbagbo -- held since 2011 by the International Criminal Court in The Hague over charges of crimes against humanity during the last post-election crisis.

Gbagbo faces four counts of crimes against humanity for allegedly fomenting the wave of violence as he refused to hand over to election winner Ouattara after 10 years in power. He has denied the charges against him.

The FPI has asked for a general amnesty for crimes committed during the post-poll unrest, a request Ouattara has already rejected.

Despite the FPI stance to the upcoming vote, small pro-Gbagbo parties have announced they plan to take part in the local elections.

eak-ck/ln/mfp