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Cote d'Ivoire President 2020

Cote d’Ivoire is a democratic republic governed by a president freely elected in 2015. Parliamentary elections held in 2016 were peaceful and considered inclusive and transparent, as were the country’s first-ever senatorial elections in March. Municipal and regional elections in October 2018, however, were marred by four elections-related deaths and numerous irregularities during the campaign period and on election day. Special elections in December 2018 were also marred by violence and allegations of fraud, despite the significant presence of security forces and international observers.

Significant human rights issues included arbitrary killings by police; arbitrary detention by security forces; harsh prison conditions; politically motivated imprisonment; lack of independence of the judiciary; restrictions on free expression, press, and internet; impediments to the rights of peaceful assembly and association; crimes of violence against women and girls, which the government took little action to prosecute; crimes involving violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; and child labor.

The government did not always take steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government. Civilian indictments against pro-Ouattara elements for crimes committed during the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis continued to be lacking. There were also numerous reports of judicial corruption, as bribery or intimidation-influenced rulings.

The government denied there were political prisoners, although President Ouattara recognized in August 2018 there were prisoners indicted for “offenses connected to the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis,” a statement widely interpreted as recognition that political prisoners existed. Some political parties and local human rights groups claimed members of former president Gbagbo’s party, Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI), detained on charges including economic crimes, armed robbery, looting, and embezzlement, were political prisoners, especially when charged for actions committed during the 2010-11 postelectoral crisis.

The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. The law bans “detention of journalists in police custody, preventive detention, and imprisonment of journalists for offense committed by means of press or by others means of publication.” The law, however, provides “fines ranging from one million to three million CFA francs ($1,700 to $5,000) for anybody found guilty of committing offenses by means of press or by others means of publication.” Newspapers aligned politically with the opposition frequently published inflammatory editorials condemning the government or fabricated stories to defame political opponents. Opposition groups and civil society criticized the government’s control over the main state-owned television station, claiming it does not allow opposition views to be broadcast. There were numerous independent radio stations. The law prohibits transmission of political commentary by community radio stations, but the regulation authority allows community radio stations to run political programs if they employ professional journalists.

In May 2019, one local press watchdog organization said there was very little independent press in the country since most media outlets were directly reliant on political parties or politicians for funding.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on 05 March 2020 he would not stand for re-election in 31 October 2020, ending speculation about his political future ahead of a highly-anticipated vote. When Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara announced on Mar. 5 he would not stand for a third term in presidential elections scheduled for Oct. 31, many Ivorians and democracy watchers around Africa breathed a collective sigh of relief. Ouattara’s mixed messages on whether he would seek re-election or not had created substantial uncertainty. In the months prior to his declaration, Ouattara repeatedly suggested the 2016 constitution allowed him to run again, a view disputed by the opposition and large sections of the country’s population.

Ouattara had previously said he would run if his longtime political rivals were candidates, defying opponents who say the constitution does not give him the right to seek a third term. But he declared in a speech before lawmakers that he would hand over power to a new generation after 10 years in office.

"I have decided not to be candidate in the Oct. 31 presidential election and to transfer power to a new generation," Ouattara said, prompting applause, cheers and gasps from audience members in the capital Yamoussoukro. Ouattara was first elected president of Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producer, in a 2010 election that sparked a brief civil war when his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to concede defeat. Around 3,000 people died in the violence.

Political tensions have been on the rise in recent months after the government issued an arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, a presidential candidate and former rebel leader whose forces swept Ouattara to power in 2011. Ouattara’s two main rivals, Gbagbo and another former president, Henri Konan Bedie, had not yet said whether they would be candidates in October.

Ivory Coast's prime minister and the governing party's candidate for the October presidential election, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, died 08 July 2020, just days after returning from two months of medical treatment in France. The 61-year-old, who had heart surgery in 2012, became unwell during a weekly cabinet meeting and was taken to a hospital where he passed away on Wednesday, President Alassane Ouattara said in a statement read on national television. "Fellow compatriots, Ivory Coast is mourning. It is with deep pain that I announce to you that Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly has left us," Ouattara said in a statement read by the presidency's secretary-general. Gon Coulibaly had returned to Ivory Coast last Thursday after two months in France to undergo a heart exam and rest. Gon Coulibaly's death is likely to set off a scramble within the governing RHDP party to replace him as its candidate in an election that is considered a key test of stability for the world's top cocoa producer.

Ouattara’s recent announcement that he is standing for re-election in the October 31 poll has renewed fears of unrest in a country that’s no stranger to electoral violence. He is running for a third term as head of state even though the constitution limits the presidency to two. The government has defended this decision by arguing that the term count should be reset to zero, given that the constitution was reformed in 2016. Ouattara’s decision has already led to widespread unrest and clashes between security forces and demonstrators.

Ouattara has many things going for him in this election. In his decade in office, he has presided over an economy that has grown by more than 7 percent annually. While not everyone has enjoyed the fruits of this growth, significant numbers of people have been lifted out of poverty and the country has enjoyed a period of relative stability. Ouattara’s nemesis, Laurent Gbagbo, remains stuck in Belgium facing an appeal at the ICC and criminal charges in Ivory Coast. Guillaume Soro, another high-profile potential rival, has been living in exile in France since December 2019.

Ouattara’s main challengers in October will be former president, Henri Konan Bédié of the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI) and Pascal Affi N’Guessan of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). Both represent divided parties.

From 2005-2018, the PDCI formed a coalition government with Ouattara’s Houphouetists Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP). This helped Ouattara win a landslide victory in the 2015 presidential election with more than 80 percent of the vote. This alliance has since unravelled and many PDCI members defected to the ruling RHDP, limiting its potential as an opposition party.

The FPI meanwhile was once a pre-eminent political force in Ivory Coast. With Gbagbo at the helm, it governed the country from 2000-2010. But since its founder’s forced exile, the party has been split between the official wing and the so-called “Gbagbo or Nothing Wing”, who have already boycotted all elections since Gbagbo left. The official FPI party only won 9.3 percent of the votes in the 2015 presidential election.

If the election proceeds along ethnic lines, it will be difficult for Ouattara to win in the first round. The departure of the PDCI from government has weakened the RHDP. Without the backing of the PDCI, Ouattara will likely lose support from much of the country’s Baule population – the largest ethnic group in the country.

Supporters of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro on 01 September 2020 filed their candidacies for a tense presidential election in October. The candidacies of the exiled leaders add to those of incumbent President Alassane Ouattara and former president Henri Konan Bedie -- while the top Catholic leader warned the country was approaching a dangerous point. Both Gbagbo and Soro had been barred by the electoral commission from running due to convictions in the country's courts. "We have just submitted the candidacy file of our political leader, president Laurent Gbagbo, the father of democracy in Ivory Coast," said Georges-Armand Ouegnin, president of the pro-Gbagbo coalition called Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS). Gbagbo, 75, was sentenced in absentia to a 20-year term last November over the looting of the local branch of the Central Bank of West African States during the post-election crisis.

Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Court ruled that only four out of 44 presidential hopefuls would be allowed to run in the country’s presidential election. Because they face criminal sentences, ex-President Laurent Gbagbo and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, both giants of Ivorian politics, were among those barred from running. Most of the others whose candidacies were judged invalid had failed to amass enough support from the public – a new electoral reform required candidates to canvass signatures from at least 1 percent of the electorate in 17 of the country’s regions in order to stand.

Those remaining will compete in the first round of the election on October 31. It will be the biggest challenge to the political stability of the country since the 2010-11 post-electoral crisis.

President Alassane Ouattara’s bid for a third term in office had been rife with controversy. Opponents and legal experts point out that the Ivorian constitution limits the presidency to two terms. The government maintains that because the constitution was reformed in 2016, the term count should be re-set to zero. For years, Ouattara had suggested that he would not run again. The 78-year-old had made repeated promises to hand power over to “a young generation”. He declared in March that Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, 61, would contest the election in his place. But Coulibaly’s sudden death from a heart attack in July shattered his plans for his political succession, and so Ouattara was forced to rethink.

Henri Konan Bédié is the 86-year-old President of the PDCI party is Ouattara’s main challenger. He is also the figure around which other opposition parties are likely to unite should the election go to a second-round. To detractors that say he is too old to run, he insists: “Age is an asset”. Bédié served as President of Ivory Coast from 1993 to 1999. His presidency was marked by the embrace of Ivoirité – a xenophobic ideology used to discriminate against those of Burkinabe and Malian origins. Under the guise of Ivoirité, Bédié barred Ouattara, whose father was rumoured to be from Burkina Faso, from taking part in the 1995 presidential election. After being ousted in a coup in 1999 – the first in the country’s history – he went into exile in France before returning to Ivory Coast in 2002 during the outbreak of the civil war. Bédié has called for the return of all exiles and the release of all remaining political prisoners from the 2010-11 post-electoral crisis. He has also promised, paradoxically, to lower tax rates and boost public spending.

Pascal Affi N’Guessan faced a difficult campaign, despite having come second in the last presidential election. The 67-year-old ex-Prime Minister is the ‘official’ leader of the FPI – the left-wing party set up by Laurent Gbagbo. After Gbagbo was sent to face charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in 2011, the party split in two. Gbagbo loyalists created the so-called ‘Gbagbo or Nothing’ faction and boycotted previous elections, refusing to recognise Affi N’Guessan as a legitimate replacement for the party’s founder.

Kouadio Konan Bertin, affectionally known as KKB, once had grand ambitions of standing as a candidate for the PDCI. But after falling out with Bédié in 2015, he decided to run as an independent, coming third in the election. Konan Bertin tried to win the nomination to stand for the PDCI going into this election. He took aim at Bédié in an interview with Jeune Afrique: “He said himself in 2010 that he had led his last fight. In 2020, this cannot still be his last fight! He also recognised that he was not sure if he still had the strength to run a government. In 2010, he was not even able to take part in a TV debate to defend his programme in front of the Ivorian people.” He was ultimately spurned by the party. The 51-year old former MP is now standing as the election’s only independent candidate.

Ouattara appealed to opponents to give up a campaign of civil disobedience during Saturday's election as protests broke out in Abidjan and other towns over his contested bid for a third term. At least 30 people have been killed in pre-election clashes since August, stoking fears of a return to the violence that left 3,000 dead in a crisis a decade ago when then president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

Ivory Coast's government accused the opposition of "plotting" against the state after it vowed to set up a rival government. Opposition leader Pascal Affi N'Guessan had told reporters late Monday that opposition parties and groups were forming a "council of national transition." N'Guessan said "This council's mission will be to... create a transitional government within the next few hours". The goal, he said, was to "prepare the framework for a fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election."

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara provisionally won a third term in office with 94.27% of the vote, the electoral commission announced on 03 NOvember 2020, after a bitter election that sparked deadly violence and was boycotted by opposition voters. "Thus elected president of the republic, Alassane Ouattara," Kuibiert-Coulibaly Ibrahime, the head of the electoral commission announced. He said the final turnout for the Oct. 31 election was at 53.90%. Two major opposition candidates on the ballot had asked supporters not to take part in Saturday's election, in protest at Ouattara's decision to run. Their parties said whole swathes of the country had not participated.

On November 9, the Constitutional Council announced that President Alassane Ouattara had won his highly controversial bid for a third term of office (in line with all expectations). Ouattara took 94% of the vote, according to official results. Sporadic violence continued, with the political capital Yamoussoukro a particular flashpoint. On November 10, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, stated that it had registered 8,000 people as having fled the country — half of them to neighboring Liberia — and the rest to Ghana, Guinea, and Togo. The mass exodus may well have been precautionary measures, similar to those taken by Abidjan residents, who left the metropolis in droves before election day but said they would be back as soon things were back to normal. Voting was not among their priorities.

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Page last modified: 29-03-2021 15:55:20 ZULU