Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s leading producer of cocoa, heads to the polls on Saturday 31 October 2020 to elect a new president.
Incumbent, Alassane Ouattara, is facing stiff competition from three opponents; the former president Henri Konan Bédié, the ex-prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan and an independent candidate, Kouadio Konan Bertin.
The number of presidential aspirants was whittled down to four after the Ivorian Constitutional Council on 14 September declared 40 others ineligible to contest for the highest office of the French-speaking country.
In the lead-up to the elections, Asaaseradio.com profiles the four men on the ballot paper.
Henri Konan BédiéBédié was president of Côte d’Ivoire from 1993 to 1999. Although, at the age of 86, he was ruled out by some who expected the Parti démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI, the “Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire”) to choose a younger presidential candidate, he won the PDCI nomination with more than 99% support from the party’s delegates.
The PDCI, the party of the country’s founding president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny, has been out of government since a 1999 military coup ousted Bédié. He and Pascal Affi N’Guessan called for a boycott of the election and civil disobedience at a joint press conference in Abidjan on 15 October. However, neither man has formally withdrawn his candidacy.
Although he is widely considered to be the biggest threat to Ouattara’s re-election, it remains to be seen what Bédié’s remaining electoral strength might be.
Alassane OuattaraEarly in March, Ouattara announced he would not seek another term, in a pronouncement that appeared to end months of speculation that he would try to extend his rule. The move seemed to stamp out a great source of contention between the ruling Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP) and the opposition before the highly anticipated polls.
However, the 78-year-old former International Monetary Fund executive rescinded his decision five months later, following the sudden passing of his hand-picked successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly.
“I had planned my life after the presidency. This is a real sacrifice for me,” Ouattara said in August, announcing his decision to run for a third term and adding that it had been made necessary by a “force majeure”.
Tipped as the favourite to win the election, Ouattara has received many compliments for Côte d’Ivoire’s economic successes, including managing sky-rocketing growth rates. However, critics have said the economic gains have not trickled down to the poor and the accuse Ouattara of shifting towards authoritarianism.
Pascal Affi N’GuessanHe was prime minister from 2000 to 2003, during Laurent Gbagbo’s presidency. The 67-year-old is the nominee of Gbagbo’s Front populaire ivoirien (FPI, or “Ivorian Popular Front”).
Affi N’Guessan was arrested and placed under house arrest until 2013, following the post-election civil war in 2010.
His decision to be the FPI’s flagbearer in the 2015 presidential election angered hardliners and Gbagbo’s supporters within the party, leading to a split. He came second behind Ouattara in that election, with 9.2% of the votes cast.
Kouadio Konan BertinKnown by his initials KKB, the 51-year-old Bertin is the youngest of the four candidates. He pitches himself as the “fresh face” of politics in a nation where more than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 35.
Bertin is a former PDCI loyalist who left to run as an independent candidate. He first left the party when Bédié decided not to present a PDCI candidate in the 2015 presidential election. He stood as an independent, coming third behind Ouattara and Affi N’Guessan.
Bertin returned to the PDCI in 2017, hoping that an ageing Bédié would step aside and allow the younger generation to lead the party in 2020. He left when his candidacy for the leadership was rejected.
He has refused to join Bédié and Affi N’Guessan in calling for a boycott of the elections, saying voters in Côte d’Ivoire want an alternative to Ouattara.
Nana Abena Boakye-Boateng