Over the weekend of 16/17 October, former president Laurent Gbagbo (76) officially launched his new African People’s Party of Ivory Coast (PPA-CI) in Abidjan. By acclamation, some 1,600 delegates also elected Gbagbo as the party’s first president. The new leftist party has the potential of becoming a key political force by the time of the October 2025 presidential elections, regardless of whether Gbagbo himself will run as a candidate.
The formation of a new political party, which Gbagbo had announced in August, marks the official end of attempts to reconcile with his former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan and the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), which Gbagbo had founded in 1982. N’Guessan had led the FPI’s legally recognized wing since Gbagbo’s extradition to The Hague in 2011, while Gbagbo had continued to lead his rival party wing in absentia. The FPI will likely struggle to remain politically relevant as a majority of its cadres have already opted to switch to the PPA-CI.
Gbagbo’s new party is likely to replace the FPI as one of the three preeminent political parties, alongside President Alassane Ouattara’s ruling Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) and Henri Konan Bedie’s Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire (PDCI). While the presence of the RHDP’s secretary-general Adama Bictogo at the PPA-CI’s congress sends a reconciliatory gesture from Ouattara, Gbagbo still faces the sword of Damocles in the form of a potential 20-year prison sentence. Besides, Ouattara may still opt to reintroduce a constitutional age limit for presidential contenders that would remove himself, Gbagbo, and Bedie from the race.
Aware of such limitations, and with the 2025 election still four years in the future, Gbagbo chose to remain vague about his political ambitions. While, on the one hand, stating to remain involved in politics until he dies, he also suggested it would be time to hand over responsibility, but at the time of his choosing. Accordingly, while any speculation as to whether Gbagbo may run himself by 2025 is premature, he will certainly want to have a say once his PPA-CI picks its candidate.