Cote d'Ivoire National Assembly 2021
Ivory Coast headed to another election, four months after the presidential elections — marred by violence —took place. On March 6, Ivorians are voting in parliamentary elections in which the opposition will take part after boycotting the presidential poll. Currently, the National Assembly is dominated by Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), led by President Alassane Ouattara.
For the first time in 10 years, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), headed by former President Laurent Gbagbo, is participating in the polls. FPI will contest as part of a coalition called Together for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS). The coalition has allied with the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI). Henri Konan Bedie — another Ivory Coast ex-president — is the leader of PDCI.
"This is the first election in 10 years in which all significant opposition forces are participating again," said Thilo Schöne, who works with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German think tank affiliated with the Social Democrats Party (SPD). "It's the first time in a long time that we can see who has influence among the population," said Schöne, who is based in Abidjan. According to him, the ruling RHDP will retain most seats because of its access to financial resources and a "well-rehearsed" election campaign machine. Also, the opposition did not put candidates forward together.
Schöne expects a low voter turnout. "There are fears to go to the elections after what happened last year," he said. Bedie and Gbagbo protested Ouattara's reelection in October. The 79-year-old leader ran for a third term. The opposition then called for "civil disobedience." The violence that followed left 87 dead and nearly 500 wounded. After gestures of appeasement by the government, including the conditional release of several of arrested opposition leaders, Bedie and Gbagbo agreed to participate in the legislative elections.
In the last legislative elections of December 2016, the RHDP and the PDCI were allies and had won an absolute majority, with 167 out of 255 seats. Because Ouattara's RHDP has a parliamentary majority, it currently allows him to basically govern through. Political diversity in the National Assembly could become a reality if the number of independent candidates running for a seat is anything to go by. There is the one or the other independent aspirant who is asking the right, perhaps also unpleasant, questions. There are also strong women among them, who are strongly underrepresented in parliament, but also the circle of candidates. Since November, 30% of each party's total candidates for the parliamentary election must be women.
Apart from the chance for the opposition to regain power and hold Ouattara accountable again, there are also many key posts to be filled within the government. In July, the vice president resigned. A year before that, the Economic and Social Council president passed away. Both positions remain vacant.
The Ivorian government is reeling from a lack of top officials, with many at the moment seemingly incapable of carrying out their duties because of health concerns. The president of the senate has been ill since July. Likewise, the president of the National Assembly recently returned after spending months abroad because of illness. The prime minister has recently been to France for health reasons. Lastly, the president of the Grand Chancellery appears increasingly weakened, and public appearances have become rare. There is a lack of political personnel here. There is a caste of politicians that has been renewed very little in the last 30 to 40 years, and that is now reaching its limits, physically but also programatically.
These elections are not just about winning seats in parliament. For some of the parties, such as the traditional PDCI founded in 1946, it is also a matter of internal change. These elections will decide which groups in the respective parties will win and whether a generational change will take place. And there are internal power struggles, too. Who will win their constituency? Who will then position themselves in the parliamentary group, and how? There is a question of renewing the party.
The election could also decide whether Gbagbo will return. The former president has remained in exile in Brussels since being released by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2019. For the country, it is clear that he will return at some point. He still has very solid support, but his own ambitions are not really clear.
Gbagbo announced in a statement that "after 10 long years of absence from the country, I will soon be with you." The 75-year-old was accused of crimes against humanity committed after losing the 2010 presidential election. ICC judges acquitted him of all charges. "I think it would be a sign of reconciliation that the Ivorian son is coming back," said Schöne. "This question of his return is somewhat decided by the election. If Gbagbo's FPI, as a coalition partner in the EDS, wins strongly, then Ouattara cannot ignore that."
Within Ouattara's RHDP, the parliamentary elections were a possibility for politicians to position themselves, especially looking at the next elections, in 2025. Everyone is positioning themselves as Ouattara's successor. Whoever is installed as prime minister after this election and has access to important projects, that will be a first hint on who Ouattara might have chosen as his successor.
Ivory Coast's ruling party won an absolute majority in parliament, the country's electoral commission announced on 09 March 2021, three days after a peaceful vote raised hopes that the country's recent violent tensions were behind it. The West African country's electoral commission said President Alassane Ouattara's RHDP party had won a majority of seats in the 255-seat National Assembly. The vote passed off peacefully and, for the first time in a decade, included all of the country's main political players, providing hope that Ivory Coast has begun to emerge from recent violent tensions.
It was a key test of stability following violence surrounding October's presidential vote, which was boycotted by the opposition and claimed 87 lives in the former French colony. The main opposition PDCI alleged electoral fraud, while the FPI party of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo had called on its supporters to remain calm and await the official results.
"The RHDP has succeeded in tipping many regions in its favour and it is in the process of acquiring the status of a national party, beyond its traditional strongholds in the north of the country," political scientist Sylvain N'Guessan said. The PDCI opposition, the party of ex-president Henri Konan Bedie, "seems to be losing momentum", he said, and appears sure to have fewer seats than in the previous legislature. The return of Gbagbo's FPI, or Ivorian Popular Front, which participated after a decade of boycott, "did not have a great influence on either the score or the turnout", said N'Guessan.
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