Ivory Coast Leader Edges Closer to Decision on Third Mandate

(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said he’s almost made up his mind whether to seek a third term in next year’s presidential election.

“I have a few friends that I’ll get in touch with before coming to my final decision, but I have almost taken that decision,” Ouattara told the audience at the Mo Ibrahim Governance Weekend in the commercial capital Abidjan late Saturday.

Ouattara, 77, is considering another term as his ruling coalition Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace is set to face stronger competition. Ivory Coast has a limit of two five-year terms, but Ouattara has said a new constitution adopted in 2016 would allow him to run again, a claim that has angered his opponents.

“Common sense would dictate that at some point we’re not able to provide as much to our country,” Ouattara told prominent Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim during a conversation at the upscale Hotel Ivoire. “Even if the constitution allows you to run, you must transfer power to the next generation.”

The new constitution also removed the age limit for candidates.

Ouattara was sworn in as president in 2011 following almost a decade of political instability in the world’s biggest cocoa producer.

His first term saw record economic growth that averaged 9 percent from 2012 to 2016, but army mutinies and strikes by civil servants blighted his second term. Even so, the economy expanded 7.4 percent in 2018 and is forecast to grow at least 7 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“Ouattara thinks he’s the only one that can unite the ruling party ahead of next year’s poll,” Francis Akindes, a professor of sociology at the Alassane Ouattara University, said by phone from Bouake. “While the new constitution technically allows him to seek a third mandate, maybe it’s time for him to hand over after almost a decade in power.”

Ouattara said he would take three things into consideration as he made his choice: God, the Ivorian people and his conscience.

According to a 2017 Afrobarometer survey, Ivorians strongly support a two-term limit. More than 50 percent expressed concerns about the upcoming elections, suggesting that they aren’t satisfied with how democracy works in the country.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.