An important political page may be turning in Côte d’Ivoire, which experienced an electoral crisis in October 2020 following the candidacy of President Ouattara that many, in the opposition camp and by some observers, considered illegal because leading to a third term. In any case, for the first time in a decade, almost all of the opposition parties are taking part in the ballot, in particular the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) of former President Laurent Gbagbo, the nucleus of a coalition called Ensemble for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS). The FPI boycotted all ballots since Mr. Gbagbo’s arrest in April 2011 in Abidjan and his transfer to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, after post-election violence that left some 3,000 dead.
A campaign without violence
Since its opening on February 26, the campaign that ends Thursday evening has not given rise to any violence and all parties have called for a peaceful ballot. Thanks to the participation of all the opposition, these legislative elections are presented as open and offer the hope of a return to political stability after the violence linked to the presidential election of October 31, 2020 which left 87 dead and nearly 500 injured. . More than 1,500 candidates are running for the votes of some 7 million voters in 205 constituencies for 255 deputies to be elected.
In the last legislative elections, in December 2016, the party of President Alassane Ouattara, the Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la democratie et la paix (RHDP), then allied to the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) of former President Henri Konan Bédié, had won the absolute majority with 167 seats. MM. Bédié and Gbagbo, who called for “civil disobedience” and boycotted the last presidential election, still do not recognize the re-election of Alassane Ouattara to a controversial third term. But today they want to counterbalance his power in the Assembly.
A PDCI-FPI alliance to counterbalance the power of the RHDP
To achieve this, the liberal PDCI of Mr. Bédié entered into an unprecedented alliance with the pro-Gbagbo socialists of EDS to prevent “the consolidation of absolute power” of Mr. Ouattara and his party. Opposite, the RHDP is displayed as the “only” to be able to present candidates in all the constituencies, promising “an orange wave”, the color of the party. “These legislative acts constitute a stake to show that the RHDP is the largest party” in Côte d’Ivoire and “to offer a broad and comfortable constitutional base so that the reforms can be carried out”, declared Adama Bictogo, executive director of the RHDP.
Gbagbo’s son in the race
Laurent’s eldest son, Michel Gbagbo, academic and candidate in the popular commune of Yopougon in Abidjan, speaks of a “new challenge” which “also marks the return of Laurent Gbagbo and his political organization to the institutional political game”. Laurent Gbagbo has been living in exile in Brussels since his acquittal of crimes against humanity by the ICC in 2019, but President Ouattara has declared himself in favor of his return, in the name of “national reconciliation”. This return is long overdue and was announced for “mid-March” by his supporters, who have set up a “national reception committee”.
Around Affi Nguessan, the third force
As an outsider vis-à-vis the RHDP and the PDCI-EDS alliance, the one formed by former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan and including the training of another ex-minister, Albert Mabri Toikeusse, and the former chief of the Young Patriots Charles Blé Goudé, yet close to Laurent Gbagbo and acquitted like him of crimes against humanity by the ICC in 2019. Many independent candidates could also play an important role in the National Assembly in the event of tight results between power and opposition.
A commitment from all for a ballot with zero deaths
In an attempt to put an end to the electoral violence that has marked the recent history of Côte d’Ivoire, all the participants in these legislative elections voted in favor of a peaceful ballot and signed a code of good conduct in front of the press. “The context (of large participation) allows for peaceful elections,” predicts Adama Bictogo, himself a candidate in Agboville, near Abidjan. President of EDS, Georges Armand Ouégnin also wants “elections with zero deaths”. While he should have been one of the pillars, the ballot will be held in the absence of Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, 55, in France for two weeks for “medical reasons”. Mr. Bakayoko is a candidate in his stronghold of Séguéla (North).