Ivory Coast Leader to Seek Third Term If Aging Rivals Run

(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said he’ll seek a third term in next year’s presidential election if “certain people from his own generation” decide to run.

“I want my generation to understand our time is up, and we should all step aside. But if they decide to run, I’ll run too,” Ouattara told a rally in the northern city of Katiola Saturday.

The world’s top cocoa producer is heading for a tense election after Ouattara’s ruling party, Ouattara’s Rally of Houphetists for Democracy and Peace, split from its biggest coalition partner -- Bedie’s PDCI, arguing over who should be its candidate in 2020.

Ouattara, 77, has said he’s keen to hand over power. Still, he fears that his preferred successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, could be defeated by an alliance between former rebel leader Guillaume Soro and ex-president Henri Konan Bedie, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News in October.

Ivory Coast Leader to Seek Third Term If Aging Rivals Run

Bedie has said his Democratic Party of Ivory Coast will choose its candidate in early 2020. Ouattara is likely to abandon his plans to hand over power if the party picks the 85-year-old.

Backed by Bedie in the second round, Ouattara defeated then-President Laurent Gbagbo in the 2010 presidential election, but wasn’t sworn in for five months when Gbagbo refused to admit defeat. The post-election conflict, Ivory Coast’s worst-ever crisis, left at least 3,000 people, mostly Gbagbo opponents, dead or missing.

Gbagbo, 74, was acquitted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity earlier this year. He’s not allowed to return to Ivory Coast while awaiting a possible appeal trial. Gbagbo could still wield influence over an election outcome through his Ivorian Popular Front, particularly if the vote goes to a second round.

Ouattara initially said he’d step down after serving two terms, but floated the idea of seeking re-election, something he says is legally possible because of a constitutional change made in 2016.

His rise to the presidency in 2011 ended years of division and conflict. The Ivy League-educated leader has overseen one of Africa’s highest economic growth rates, achieving more than 7% expansion every year since 2012. An election defeat for the ruling party could put that stability at risk.

“I don’t want Ivory Coast to again fall into the hands of those who destroyed our country, who mismanaged public funds,” Ouattara said as he finished up a four-day visit to the northern Hambol region.“I want you to know that my concern is the state and the nation, the Ivorian nation and the Ivorians. And I’ll do all necessary sacrifices for my beautiful country,” he said.

In a runoff vote against the ruling party candidate, the opposition would rally behind its candidate, Guillaume Soro said when he announced his intention to run in October.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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