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June 8, 2020

COTE D’IVOIRE: Bedie’s candidacy would play into Ouattara’s hands

BY Malte Liewerscheidt

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( 3 mins)

On 5 June, the political bureau of the opposition Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI) decided to push back the party’s convention to nominate its flagbearer for the 31 October presidential election from this week to the end of July. Yet, eligibility criteria, as well as the event’s designated title (“Experience and wisdom for a change in governance”), suggest that former president (1993-1999) and PDCI party chairman Henri Konan Bedie (86) is aiming to seize the candidacy. If so, this would significantly reduce the opposition’s chances at the polls for numerous reasons.

Bedie’s candidacy has long been rumored and, while it still remains undeclared, has become more likely with last week’s political bureau decision. According to the eligibility criteria adopted, would-be candidates must have been members of the currently 2,120-strong political bureau for at least ten years and pay a non-reimbursable candidacy fee of XOF 25mn (USD 43,000). This narrows down the field of candidates and eliminates more ‘youthful’ potential contenders such as the former minister and CEO of Credit Suisse, Tidjane Thiam (57), who is not a member of the political bureau. It remains to be seen whether ex-ministers Thierry Tanoh (58) or Jean-Louis Billon (55), who are both rumored to harbor presidential ambitions, will rebel against their political godfather by putting forward their candidacy. Billon in particular is believed to remain loyal to Bedie, however.

Even though internal contenders might back down, an eventual candidacy of the octogenarian Bedie would not send a signal of renewal to either the party base or the electorate. Consequently, this would still likely divide the party and drive more of its members into the arms of the ruling Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), thereby reinforcing a trend that set in when Bedie decided to pull the PDCI out of the government coalition in 2018.

Secondly, it would also directly play into the hands of President Alassane Ouattara (78), who recently announced to step down to make way for a younger generation, handing the ruling party’s presidential candidacy to Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly (61). Finally, it would cast doubts on a deal struck between the PDCI and the wing of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) loyal to ex-president Laurent Gbagbo (75) to support each other’s candidate in a potential run-off vote. While the rapprochement between the erstwhile enemies Bedie and Gbagbo is based on little else than a common desire to defeat Ouattara’s candidate, the egos involved suggest the support is unlikely to extend to further each other’s ambitions directly.

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