Ivorian political drama ahead of October elections
The men who would be president? Amid a healthy main crop, the political environment in Ivory Coast is gaining more attention with dramatic developments in the last month.
Might Alassane Ouattara run once more? Recognized as the winner of the 2010 presidential election, Ouattara was installed as president after 2011 civil war and won reelection in 2015. He has previously pledged to step down after two terms, and the new constitution he backed in 2016 established a two-term limit for the presidency. However, he has teased the possibility of running, arguing that his first two terms preceded the constitution’s adoption.
Ouattara’s plans to amend the constitution and electoral code ahead of the election have naturally been met with skepticism. Ouattara has denied plans to set an age limit for presidential candidates.
Separately, Ouattara has been reported as saying that he would run if former opponents like ex-president Laurent Gbagbo or Henri Konan Bédié run.
Amadou Gon Coulibaly: Prime Minister Coulibaly is presumed to be Ouattara’s handpicked political heir—should Ouattara choose not to run. As Prime Minister, Coulibaly would presumably play a significant role in the negotiation and discussion of any constitutional amendments.
Laurent Gbagbo: After the 2011 civil war, former president Gbagbo would become the first former head of state rendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC). ICC surprised many in 2019 by finding that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of crimes against humanity. ICC conditionally released Gbagbo and a former member of his administration, Charles Blé Goudé. The latter has received a 20-year-sentence from an Ivorian Court, however.
The Ouattara administration is expected to continue to fight an order of unconditional release that would allow Gbagbo’s return to Ivory Coast. Politically, groups and actors both inside and outside the country still support Gbagbo, though his former party, FPI, fared poorly in the 2016 parliamentary election.
Guillaume Soro: A year ago, former rebel leader and then National Assembly speaker Guillaume Soro seemed a strong contender to follow Ouattara as president of Ivory Coast. Ouattara, however, seemed to favor Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly. Previously an ally of the president, Soro stepped down as speaker in February 2019 following a series of disagreements with Ouattara, leaving the country in May of that year.
Soro declined to join Ouattara’s new RHDP party, seeming to prefer cooperation between his new GPS movement and the PDCI. In October 2019, Soro announced that he had been the target of a kidnapping attempt organized from Ivory Coast.
In December, Guillaume Soro, expected to run in October 2020’s presidential election, dramatically diverted his flight from Accra to Ghana, citing an arrest warrant alleging plans to undermine the Ivorian state and incite insurrection—plus charges of malfeasance. Multiple allies of Soro were arrested.
Henri Konan Bédié: Former president Bédié backed Ouattara’s 2011 run. He is president of his party, the PDCI-RDA. An age limit of 80 for presidential candidates would preclude his running.
Bédié has criticized what he sees as the use of courts by the executive as endangering democracy and the rule of law.
A peaceful election? The international community hopes for an uneventful election and transition for Ivory Coast, otherwise a bright spot in the region, but the recent development has raised some concerns. In a New Year’s speech, Ouattara promised that “2020 will be a peaceful electoral year.”
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