Electoral officials said Tuesday that President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast had won a third term in a landslide. But his two main opponents boycotted the election and refused to recognize the results, raising fears that the West African nation could spiral deeper into political violence.
Mr. Ouattara ran for a third term although the Ivorian Constitution limits presidents to two terms. According to the country’s electoral commission, he won Saturday’s election with more than 94 percent of the vote.
But voter turnout showed that many had heeded the calls to boycott the vote, prompting international observers to say the election lacked fair competition. Mr. Ouattara’s two main opponents, Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Henri Konan Bédié, said the president had run illegally.
This was one in a series of presidential elections being held in African countries over several months — and incumbents in many other races have bent the rules to stay in power. From Guinea to Uganda, presidents have changed constitutions, prosecuted opponents or manipulated supreme courts to ensure they can stay in power or run for re-election.
Mr. Ouattara’s two main opponents said on Monday that they had created a transitional body, led by Mr. Bédié, to prepare for fair and transparent new elections. It wasn’t immediately clear how they could move forward with their plan.
Mr. Ouattara, who became president in 2010 and was re-elected in 2015, said in March that he wouldn’t seek re-election. But after the Ivorian prime minister and Mr. Ouattara’s chosen successor suddenly died in July, the president claimed that he was best positioned to lead the country for another five-year term.
In August, Mr. Ouattara announced that he would defy constitutional term limits and run for a third term. Since then, protests have shaken the nation of 26 million and at least 40 have died in unrest during the presidential campaign.
The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday that more than 3,200 people had fled Ivory Coast to neighboring Liberia, Ghana and Togo because of electoral tensions. About 2,600 have gone to Liberia, with 1,000 arriving on Sunday alone.
The agency said the violence triggered by the election had not been seen in Ivory Coast since a disputed 2010 presidential contest between Mr. Ouattara and then-President Laurent Gbagbo set off a civil war. The conflict eventually killed 3,000 people, forced more than 300,000 to flee the country and displaced more than one million inside the country.
Mr. Gbagbo, who also refused to leave power, was eventually captured by Mr. Ouattara’s men after the civil war, the second in the country in less than 10 years. He was acquitted by the International Criminal Court last year after standing trial on charges of committing crimes against humanity during the 2010-2011 crisis. Prosecutors have appealed the decision.
Mr. Ouattara disputed the accusation that he ran illegally this year, saying that his term clock had been reset to zero after the country adopted a new constitution in 2016. The previous constitution, which was adopted in 2000, also limited presidents to two terms.
Mr. Ouattara said in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde last month that he was running for a third term against his will and by duty, and called the ongoing tensions “artificial.”
Two nonprofit organizations monitoring the election said that the violence, the rigged electoral process and calls for civil disobedience by opposition leaders had hampered a competitive vote.
In a report published on Tuesday, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and the Carter Center found that the validation of Mr. Ouattara’s candidacy by the Ivorian constitutional council had “no clear or substantiated legal basis,” and that 40 of the 44 presidential candidates had been disqualified from the race with no effective remedy available.
“This alarming trend echoes a tendency observed on the African continent to change or amend the constitution to allow an incumbent president to run for a third term,” the report said.
Mr. Bédié, who ruled the country from 1993 to 1999, said on Monday that his residence, in the economic capital, Abidjan, had been targeted by gunfire. On Tuesday, security forces blocked roads around his residence, according to news reports and footage shared on social platforms. They fired tear gas and dispersed supporters and journalists.