October 7, 2020

Africa

COTE D’IVOIRE: Calls to postpone election unlikely to be heeded

BY Malte Liewerscheidt

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President Alassane Ouattara is highly unlikely to give in to opposition demands to postpone the 31 October general election by three months or even more. While the opposition has failed to muster enough pressure to force concessions, its unrealistic demands make it even easier to ignore them for the government, despite slightly growing international and regional pressure. Instead, the 6 October announcement to prosecute Guillaume Soro and more than two dozen of his associates suggests the government has further hardened its stance.

Already during a meeting on 4 September between Ouattara and Emmanuel Macron, the French president had apparently tried unsuccessfully to persuade Ouattara to postpone the election and honor his earlier pledge to step down at the end of his term. Earlier this week, a UN and an ECOWAS delegation visited the country to hold meetings with government and opposition representatives to gauge the potential for compromise on opposition grievances ahead of the polls. Following the meeting, presidential candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan (Ivorian Popular Front, FPI-Affi) tabled a demand to postpone the polls by a minimum of three months. Ideally, however, N’Guessan would like to see a postponement of 12 months, arguably to give the ruling Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) time to select another candidate and enable Ouattara to abandon his controversial candidacy for a third term.

However, the opposition continues to push its maximalist demands. Apart from calls for Ouattara to retire, this includes a reconfiguration of the electoral commission and the constitutional council, a review of the electoral register, and, finally, the return of all exiled opposition politicians, including ex-president Laurent Gbagbo (FPI-GOR) and Guillaume Soro. Given the opposition’s apparent struggle to mobilize its supporters and put pressure on the government, this rather excessive list serves to further limit any interest on the executive side to engage with the opposition in the first place.

Signaling its hardened resolve to do just the opposite, the state prosecutor announced on 6 October to indict Soro (who remains in France) and 27 of his associates on various grounds, most notably a planned coup d’état in December 2019. Among the defendants are eight of the ten Soro affiliates that had just been released on 24 September as a purported gesture of goodwill.

However, the opposition continues to push its maximalist demands. Apart from calls for Ouattara to retire, this includes a reconfiguration of the electoral commission and the constitutional council, a review of the electoral register, and, finally, the return of all exiled opposition politicians, including ex-president Laurent Gbagbo (FPI-GOR) and Guillaume Soro. Given the opposition’s apparent struggle to mobilize its supporters and put pressure on the government, this rather excessive list serves to further limit any interest on the executive side to engage with the opposition in the first place.

Signaling its hardened resolve to do just the opposite, the state prosecutor announced on 6 October to indict Soro (who remains in France) and 27 of his associates on various grounds, most notably a planned coup d’état in December 2019. Among the defendants are eight of the ten Soro affiliates that had just been released on 24 September as a purported gesture of goodwill.

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