Ivory Coast ex-President Gbagbo's party to boycott elections

ABIDJAN Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:25am EDT

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague February 19, 2013. REUTERS/ Michael Kooren

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo attends a confirmation of charges hearing in his pre-trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/ Michael Kooren

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The party of Ivory Coast's former president Laurent Gbagbo will boycott elections in April after accusing the government of fixing the date for the polls without proper consultation, party officials said.

Gbagbo is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) accused of crimes against humanity committed during a 2011 civil war sparked by his refusal to accept the presidential election victory of rival Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo won 46 percent of votes in the 2010 runoff that sparked the brief armed conflict and still has many supporters in the world's largest cocoa producer.

Analysts said the boycott was a setback to attempts to draw Gbagbo's supporters back into the political process, potentially increasing the chance of instability and violence.

The government accuses pro-Gbagbo hardliners of launching armed raids on security installations and essential infrastructure in Ivory Coast.

"We've been in negotiations with the government on a number of points, principally the elections. But while these talks were underway, the government unilaterally set this date," the FPI's acting president Sylvain Miaka Ouretto said late on Thursday.

"These elections on April 21 do not concern us," he said.

Party members who register as candidates, campaign for others or vote in the local and regional polls would face disciplinary action, according to a statement seen by Reuters on Friday.

The FPI boycotted parliamentary elections in late 2011.

Gunmen have carried out more than two dozen attacks since August, mainly in the commercial capital Abidjan and along the western border with Liberia. United Nations investigators last year accused high-ranking members of the Gbagbo regime now living in exile of orchestrating the violence.

Ouattara's government has said some active duty members of the security forces have been involved in the violence.

Human rights campaigners claim the Ivorian authorities have committed widespread abuses including arbitrary arrest and torture against suspected Gbagbo supporters during the wave of arrests that followed the attacks.

(Reporting By Joe Bavier; editing by Ron Askew)