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Ivory Coast - Political Parties

Rally of Houphouetists for
Democracy and Peace
Rally of the
Union for Democracy and
Peace in Cote d'Ivoire
Movement of Forces
of the Future
Union for
Cote d'Ivoire
Ivorian Popular
Front (FPI)

The law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage. The law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or religious lines. Ethnicity, however, was often a factor in party membership, and the appearance of ethnicity playing a role in political appointments remained as well. Opposition leaders reported denials of their requests to hold political meetings and alleged inconsistent standards for granting public assembly permits. In April an aide to a prominent opposition politician reported being harassed and threatened by police for his political views.

Peaceful assemblies organized by civil society organizations and opposition groups were regularly banned and dispersed with excessive use of force by police and gendarmes. The law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the government did not always respect this right. The law requires groups that wish to hold demonstrations or rallies in stadiums or other enclosed spaces to submit a written notice to the government at least three days before the proposed event. The organizers must receive the government’s authorization in order to proceed. Numerous opposition political parties reported denials of their requests to hold political meetings and alleged inconsistent standards for granting public assembly permissions.

The electoral code requires a voter-list revision period to take place annually, during which citizens can register to vote or previously registered voters can update their registration information.

. Opposition groups were able to hold public rallies in several areas. Some opposition leaders, however, alleged that their freedom of assembly rights were violated in some instances and that local authorities were not proportionate in granting or denying public assembly permissions to opposition and ruling coalition groups. Opposition leaders reported that local authorities asked them to leave the northern city of Korhogo before a planned August rally on the grounds they could not guarantee their safety. Security forces dispersed opposition assemblies in several areas on the grounds that protest organizers had not followed proper instructions in applying for public assembly permits or that the assemblies posed a risk to public safety. Domestic and international human rights observers also reported irregularities in arrests following violent protests on 10 September 2015. The composition and responsibilities of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), the main body responsible for organizing elections in Cote d'Ivoire, has been highly politicized and subject to contentious infighting since the crisis erupted in 2002. The CEI is composed of members of the political parties as well as representatives of the President of the Republic, key government ministries and the President of the National Assembly. It is responsible for the technical aspects of elections preparation (delivering ballots, setting up polling booths, etc.). More importantly, the CEI is responsible for two political tinderboxes: creating the new voters list and proposing to the government dates for the beginning of election campaigning and elections.

A presidential election was held in 1995. The major opposition parties boycotted the election due to the Electoral Code's candidacy requirements and voter registration irregularities. The opposition defied the national laws regarding law and order and called for "active boycott" of the polls during the presidential election. Members of the opposition blocked polling places from access by voters and prevented delivery of election materials to the polls. Only the ruling PDCI and a single small opposition party, the PIT, fielded presidential candidates. President Bedie won 96 percent of the votes cast. The FPI and RDR boycotted the presidential election of October 1995 because of Ouattara's disqualification and the absence of an independent electoral commission, among other grievances. Their "active boycott" produced a certain amount of violence and hundreds of arrests, with a number of those arrested not tried for 2-1/2 years.

Afterward, the major political parties reached an accord that ensured full party participation in the 1995 legislative elections. These elections were, however, suspended in 3 of the 175 districts due to government concern over Bete-Baoule ethnic violence and voters displaced as a result of the active boycott. Election results from another three districts were declared invalid by the Constitutional Council. Elections in these six districts and two other open seats were held on December 29, 1996, and proceeded in an orderly, transparent manner.

The December 2000 National Assembly election was marred by violence, irregularities, and a very low participation rate. Largely because of the RDR boycott of the election to protest the invalidation of the candidacy of party president Alassane Ouattara, the participation rate was only 33%. In addition, the election could not take place in 26 electoral districts in the north because RDR activists disrupted polling places, burned ballots, and threatened the security of election officials. Following the legislative by-elections in January 2001, 223 of the 225 seats of the National Assembly were filled. The FPI held 96 seats, the PDCI 94 seats, the PIT 4 seats, very small parties 2 seats, independent candidates 22 seats, and the RDR--in spite of its boycott of the legislative elections--5 seats.

Ethnic and political conflict developed into open civil war in Côte d’Ivoire in 2002, leading to a de facto partitioning of the country into the government-controlled south and the rebel-controlled north.

Gbagbo's political party, the FPI (Front Populaire Ivoirien), consistently came in at third place, as it was still associated with a minority ethnic group (the Bete). To win a presidential election, the FPI needed an alliance with one of the larger parties - either the PDCI (Parti Democratique de Cote d'Ivoire) or the RDR (Rassemblement des Republicains), but the latter have remained remarkably united in an alliance against the FPI, known as the RHDP (Rassemblement des Houphouetistes).

Parti démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI)

Initially, the trappings of political power were concentrated in a single party, the Democratic Party of Cote d'lvoire (Parti Democratique de Cote d'lvoire—PDCI), to which all adult citizens were required to belong. The principal goal of the party was stability, and compared with parties in other sub-Saharan states, it had achieved its objective. By and large, political conflict took place within constitutional bounds. Party membership was synonymous with citizenship. At its inception and during the late stages of colonial rule, the party was a broad coalition, less nationalist than nativist, and calling itself populist, consultative, and representative. At that time, the PDCI enjoyed considerable grass-roots support.

Under French rule, Ivoirian planters were long incensed at having to work on the plantations of French settlers, who by law received more for their crops than they themselves did. As a result, the Ivoirian planters formed the African Agricultural Union (Syndicat Agricole Africain—SAA) to fight for equal rights. In 1946 the SAA gave rise to Cote d'lvoire's sole political party, the Democratic Party of Cote d'lvoire (Parti Democratique de Cote d'lvoire) under the leadership of Felix Houphouet-Boigny. During the postwar years, the party, in cooperation with a regional coalition of anticolonialist groups, militantly challenged French policies in Cote d'lvoire. Confrontation led to such violence and repression that by 1951 the party was in near ruin. To stave off a collapse, Houphouet-Boigny abandoned his alliance with the French Communist Party and the radical politics of earlier years in favor of practical cooperation with French authorities. France then granted significant political and economic concessions to the colony, which soon became the wealthiest in French West Africa.

On October 31, 1960, the National Assembly of Cote d'lvoire adopted a constitution establishing an independent republic. The PDCI leadership equated national unity with unanimous support for the PDCI and believed that competition among political parties would waste resources and destroy unity. Therefore, election provisions made it almost impossible for another party to win seats in the National Assembly. As the sole political party, the PDCI came to exercise political control over all branches of government. By the late 1960s, power was concentrated in the hands of Houphouet-Boigny, who, in addition to his position as president, was also titular president of the PDCI. Loyal colleagues received positions of authority within the police and armed forces, as well as in the government and PDCI.

The Ivoirian constitution affords the legislature some independence, but it has not been widely exercised. Until 1990, all legislators were from the PDCI. Presidential and PDCI control of assembly membership precluded an independent or opposition role by the assembly in the decision-making process. At the same time, the existence of an assembly with responsibility for approving proposed laws legitimized the government's democratic pretensions. Moreover, the PDCI used the assembly as a means of co-opting potential government opponents and securing their loyalty by providing deputies with a variety of privileges and amenities.

As the Ivoirian bureaucracy assumed a more prominent position in the postindependence years, the PDCI withered steadily. Increasingly it became a sinecure for the old guard, who lacked the ability to hold government office but remained personally loyal to the president. Also, by the early 1970s the one-party political structure was based on a purely ethnic system of representation at the local level that lacked any democratic procedures and that had produced an economically privileged political class.

The Parti démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), also known as the Parti démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire-Rassemblement démocratique africain (PDCI-RDA), had 94 members in 2005 in the Ivorian national assembly, which was made up of 225 members. It was the second largest political party after the Front populaire ivoirien (FPI), which was in power and which was represented by 96 members. The PDCI was part of the transitional government in Côte d'Ivoire. Charles Konan Banny, the former governor of the Central Bank of the West African was appointed prime minister of Côte d'Ivoire in early December 2005 by international mediators. Charles Banny was a member of the PDCI. The PDCI was run by Henri Konan Bédié, former Ivorian president, who returned to Côte d'Ivoire on 11 September 2005. He had been living in France since the December 1999 coup d'état. The president of the PDCI had considerable support from the Baoulé ethnic group, which is the majority ethnic group in the country and which is the ethnic group that he belongs to. The newly appointed prime minister also belongs to the Baoulé ethnic group. Alphonse Djédjé is filling the position of secretary general of the PDCI. Leading up to the 2006 election, the PDCI formed an electoral alliance with other opposition parties, including the Rassemblement des républicains (RDR), l'Union pour la démocratie et la paix en Côte d'Ivoire (UDPCI) and the Mouvement des forces de l'avenir (MFA) under the Rassemblement des houphouétistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP).

Ivoirian People's Front (FPI)

Until it took the reins of government in the 2000 elections, the Ivoirian People's Front (FPI) party had been the oldest opposition party. Moderate in outlook, it has a socialist coloration but one which was more concerned with democratic reform than radical economic change. It is strongest in the Bete ethnic areas (southwest) of former President Laurent Gbagbo. The PDCI's "core" region may be described as the terrain of the Baoule ethnic group in the country's center and east, home of both Houphouet-Boigny and Bedie; however, the PDCI is represented in all parts of Cote d'Ivoire. Former members of the PDCI's reformist wing formed the originally non-ideological RDR in September 1994. They hoped that former Prime Minister Ouattara would run and prevail in the 1995 presidential election, but Ouattara was subsequently disqualified by Bedie-sponsored legislation requiring 5-year residency. The RDR was strongest in the mostly Muslim north.

After nearly six years in power, by 2006 President Gbagbo's Ivoirian People's Front (FPI) found itself on the defensive for primarily two reasons. First, despite coming to power on an ambitious socialist agenda for reform, the FPI has accomplished very little during its time at the helm. FPI stalwarts often tried to hide behind the 2002 failed coup and subsequent division of the country as an excuse for their inaction. In fact, however, Gbagbo and his party had almost two full years in which to launch initiatives to begin to address the thorniest issues fueling the current Ivoirian crisis: voter registration, national identity, the concept of Ivoirite, land ownership, and corruption and economic reform. The regime did little on the first four.

On the fifth, it did change the structures governing the production and sale of cocoa but this can hardly be termed as "reform" as the changes did nothing to increase transparency or reduce corruption or the exploitation of cocoa farmers by those in power. The FPI simply failed to follow any policy agenda beyond seeking to remain in power and continuing to skim money from state coffers. At the same time, it promoted an ethnocentric and xenophobic ideology.

The second reason for the FPI's defensiveness was its own perceived lack of legitimacy as a result of the flawed presidential and parliamentary elections of 2000. The former disqualified Gbagbo's two principal opposition rivals, former president Henri Bedie of the PDCI party, and RDR leader and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. As a result, voter participation was only a low 37.4 percent. Gbagbo won 59.4 pct of these votes, meaning he received the support of only 22.2 pct of eligible voters, hardly a ringing endorsement. After Ouattara was barred from running for president, the RDR foolishly boycotted the parliamentary elections, handing the FPI an effective majority in the National Assembly. Since these unusual circumstances were unlikely to be repeated, the FPI leadership was rightly doubtful that it could defeat a united opposition in a free and fair election, thus losing control of the National Assembly.

As a result of these concerns, the FPI was intent on maintaining control of the electoral process so that it can manipulate it to its advantage. The other lever that the FPI relied on to maintain power was use of militias and street thugs to intimidate the opposition. Relying on militias rather than legitimate security forces typified the FPI,s continuing oppositionist mindset. After all those years of opposing Houphouet and then Bedie and Guei, Gbagbo and his cohorts have never made the transition to thinking like a ruling party using the legitimate tools of the state.

Rally of Democratic Republicans - RDR

The RDR is a political party founded in September 1994. Its president is Alassane Ouattara. Since the crisis began in September 2002, members of Alassane Ouattara's political party, the RDR (Rally of Democratic Republicans) had been targeted and sometimes killed by pro-government death squads. In Abidjan, the RDR headquarters was burned down shortly after the crisis began, and up until two months ago when the building was renovated, members were meeting in the ruins. In the rebel-controlled zone, RDR leaders have been expected to rally their members, but they are operating under difficult conditions with few jobs in the area and uncertain water and electricity supplies. Meanwhile, Ouattara had been living in Paris.

By 2006 Ouattara was trying to spread the power out more among the rank and file members and reinvigorate the RDR after the difficult and violent previous three years during which he was in exile. It was a positive step towards internal democracy in the party that he has increased the number of elected officials and intends to offer a political platform, a rare occurrence in Ivoirian politics. It was also a positive step for him to give more power to the RDR youth, given the demographically large numbers of youth in the country and the dynamic, albeit negative, role that pro-government youth play in the political scene.

Parti La Renaissance

The "Renaissance" party (Parti La Renaissance) was created in 1987 by a faction that broke away from President Gbagbo's Popular Ivorian Front (Front Populaire Ivoirien - FPI). The Renaissance party believed that new political actors are needed to bring about change and that a transitional government should be put in place composed of "credible" political parties and "credible" members of civil society. La Renaissance cooperates with the following political parties: the Party for Progress and Socialism (Parti Pour le Progres et le Socialisme- PPS), the Ivorian Revival Union (Union des Ivoriens de Renouveau), the People's Socialist Union (Union Socialiste du Peuple - USP), the Communist Party, the Ivorian Workers' Party (Parti Ivorien des Travailleurs - PIT), and the Movement of Forces of the Future (Mouvement des Forces de l'Avenir).

Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix
Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP)

The Party was founded by the country's first president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny [Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP)]. Houphouët-Boigny is above all, for all Ivorians, the man who embodies peace. Houphouët's obsession was to maintain in Côte d'Ivoire, a country with sixty ethnic groups, national unity and peace. He affirmed: "peace is not an empty word, it is a behavior", clarifying that "in the search for peace, true peace, just and lasting peace, one should not hesitate to resort, obstinately, to dialogue ”.

The four main Ivorian opposition parties signed together Wednesday, May 18, in Paris, a "platform for the gathering of Houphouetists". The Paris ceremony confirms a coalition for the next presidential elections which will take place on October 31, 2005. The creation of the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace above all seals an alliance between Henri Konan Bédié and Alassane Dramane Ouattara for the second round of the ballot . For the President of the Ivorian Popular Front, Laurent Gbagbo's party, this alliance is a "coalition of mediocrity".

The "platform" is a text in which each of the signatory parties solemnly declares its attachment to "Houphouetism". This term designates and includes "the thought, work and action of President Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Ivorian President from 1960 to 1993, editor's note)", "apostle of peace in all circumstances". The purpose of the rally, through presidential elections, is to "restore the authority of the State, the image and dignity of Côte d'Ivoire", as well as "the regular functioning of the institutions of the Republic" . In other words, beat Gbagbo in October through the ballot boxes.

The RDR belonged to a coalition of political parties-the RHDP-which includes the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (Parti démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire), the African Democratic Rally (Rassemblement démocratique africain, PDCI-RDA), the Movement of the Forces of the Future (Mouvement des forces d'avenir, MFA) and the Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d'Ivoire (Union pour la démocratie et la paix en Côte d'Ivoire, UDPCI). This coalition was reportedly founded in France in 2005.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara launched a new umbrella party that he said would help ensure continuity. The move turned the Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), currently the ruling coalition, into a formal party. Named in honor of the country's founding leader, the party held its constitutive assembly at a luxury hotel in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan, adopting the new party's statutes unanimously after one hour of debate. Ouattara ran unopposed as its leader.

On 16 July 2018 general assembly constituting the future political formation was held. It is the first step before the effective foundation of the RHDP in which the parties of the ruling coalition will dissolve. All the parties concerned were present, with the exception of the PDCI, the strong ally of the presidential party. The head of state repeated the need for the unified party and again reaches out to Henri Konan Bédié, leader of the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), hostile to any merger before the presidential elections in 2020.

The new party groups Ouattara's own Rally of Republicans (RDR) with the Union for Democracy and Peace (UDPCI), which has six MPs in parliament, as well as figures from other parties. But one coalition member, the Democratic Party (PDCI), refused to go under the RHDP umbrella, having demanded that the party field a sole candidate -- from the Democrats' ranks -- in the 2020 vote. The RDR rejected the demand, even though the PDCI supported Ouattara in his 2010 and 2015 presidential runs.

In February 2019, Guillaume Soro, a former leader of the pro-Ouattara New Forces rebel group, resigned as president of the parliament, after refusing to support the RHDP bloc’s merger into a unified party under Ouattara’s leadership. Months earlier, ex-president Henri Konan Bédié, a one-time rival of Ouattara’s who later became his close ally, walked out of the coalition.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2021 11:51:02 ZULU