ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast The Supreme Court barred Ivory Coast's main opposition leader from seeking the presidency, raising fears of clashes between his supporters and troops backing the military government.
Gen. Robert Guei, leader of the junta that governs the country, was among five candidates allowed to run in the Oct. 22 presidential election, Judge Kone Tia said Friday. Main opposition leader Alassane Dramane Ouattara was excluded.
The announcement was aired on state television shortly before a curfew went into effect during a state of emergency called by the junta the day earlier.
Tia said the court had doubts about the nationality of Ouattara's mother, and questioned whether the opposition leader had held another nationality. Under Ivory Coast's new constitution, the parents of all presidential candidates must be born in the Ivory Coast, and the candidates themselves must never have held another nationality.
Ouattara insists both his mother and father were Ivorian. The junta, which took power in a Christmas Eve coup, has said his mother was from neighboring Burkina Faso, where it claimed Ouattara held dual citizenship.
Some Ouattara supporters had warned of unrest if he was excluded by the court. Junta officials countered with threats of harsh reprisals for any violence. Tension mounted Friday night as troops wearing red berets patrolled empty streets to head off potential riots by Outtara's backers.
Some banks and stores closed early, and some airlines canceled flights to and from Abidjan's international airport.
The debate over eligibility has solidified Guei's support among southerners who have long dominated Ivory Coast's political arena, while hardening the defiance of northerners.
After seizing power in Ivory Coast's first coup on Dec. 24, Guei initially promised a quick handover to civilians. He has since traded his military uniform for a business suit and has rallied several small political parties around his candidacy.