Côte d’Ivoire: President Ouattara re-elected in controversial, disputed poll
President Alassane Ouattara was re-elected for a third term claiming a landslide 94.27% at the 31 October vote. The two main opposition candidates Henri Konan Bédié (former president) of the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast and Pascal Affi N'Guessan of the Ivorian Popular Front (former prime minister) called upon their supporters to boycott the vote.
As a reaction to the confirmation of Ouattara’s victory by the electoral commission, the opposition leaders announced they had set up a ‘transitional council’ to prepare a framework for credible and transparent elections. The government immediately accused them of sedition for creating a parallel administration. On 2 November, opposition figures (including Assoa Adou, candidate for the party of former president Laurent Gbagbo) claimed police forces surrounded their houses while supporters and journalists were being dispersed. Only a day later, an influential former rebel leader called for the army to mutiny and back the parallel administration. Regional and international players are calling for dialogue between the government and opposition and the EU moreover asks for an independent investigation into election-related violence.
Tensions intensified when President Ouattara decided to run for an unconstitutional third term following the sudden death of his preferred succession candidate Amadou Gon Coulibaly in July, after toying on and off for years with the idea of running for another term. Eventually, Ouattara claimed that the constitutional two-term limit does not apply to him because it was adopted during his tenure.
Over the past months, France tried to persuade Ouattara to postpone the elections because of fear for political violence emerging. Côte d’Ivoire has never had a peaceful power transition before and memories of the bloody civil wars in 2002 and 2011 raise fears over renewed violent destabilisation. In the run-up to last week’s election, at least 35 people died in election-related violence. International observers of the election expressed their concerns over tensions, provocation and stimulation of hatred. Moreover, the United Nations say electoral tensions have caused 3,200 Ivorian refugees to flee to neighbouring countries.
The democratic progress made in Côte d’Ivoire since the end of the civil war in 2011 is threatened by the execution of this election. Moreover, given Côte d’Ivoire’s prominent position, this could cause a general decline of democracy across the region. In the past months, we witnessed President Condé of Guinea secure an unconstitutional third term, and there was a military coup in Mali, ousting the elected president.
President Ouattara was officially re-elected and his government could muddle through this tense period, possibly with a continued heavy-handed response to dissent. However, even if the violent tensions do not spiral out of control in the coming days or weeks, this episode could have a long-term impact on the country’s image and its economic and political stewardship in West Africa. What’s more, the reputational damage might affect future relations with certain investors and multilaterals. As the risk for conflict and violence has increased in Côte d’Ivoire, the outlook for Credendo’s political violence risk classification (category 5/7) is tilted to the downside.
Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh – email@example.com