Côte d’Ivoire: All together now
With the economy growing at a rapid pace and the opposition in disarray, a new alliance has been formed to challenge incumbent president Alassane Ouattara in the national elections planned for October.
Former prime minister Charles Konan Banny and his allies from 13 parties in the newly established Coalition Nationale pour le Changement (CNC) want to unite and choose a single candidate to go up against Ouattara, who they say has squandered opportunities to reconcile the population after the post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011.
The country’s main political parties have been fracturing over policies and personalities. The former single party, the Parti Démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), has split over leader Henri Konan Bédié’s unpopular decision to continue his alliance with Ouattara by not naming a candidate for the presidential vote. This year, Banny and others left the party over Bédié’s call.
The CNC, which was founded on 15 May, will face difficulties because the groups it represents come from all sides of the political spectrum and several personalities are interested in running for the presidency.
Banny, a frontrunner to be the CNC candidate, was most recently the head of the Commission Dialogue, Vérité et Réconciliation, which many critics said fell well short of its mission to build up trust after the civil war and the ousting of President Laurent Gbagbo following the disputed 2010 elections.
Banny, who says that his first priority as president would be reconciliation and calling people in exile to return, also served as Gbagbo’s prime minister from 2005 to 2007.
Other grandees in the CNC include Mamadou Koulibaly, the head of the Liberté et Démocratie pour la République (LIDER) party and a former president of the national assembly from Gbagbo’s party.
Kouadio Konan Bertin, another PDCI dissident, led the party’s youth movement until his disagreements with Bédié became insurmountable. Also part of the new coalition is Abou Drahamane Sangaré. He leads the rump of Gbagbo’s Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) that remains loyal to the former president and current prisoner awaiting trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Missing from the CNC members’ list is former foreign minister Amara Essy, who also opposed Bédié’s position on a 2015 presidential candidate.
Local media reported that Essy was to join the CNC, but he now wants to run for the presidency on his own.
The opposition vote could be split even more depending on what the FPI, led by Pascal Affi N’Guessan, does. In April, he said that the party would take part in the October vote, but it still could boycott the poll in the end, as it did in the 2013 local government elections.
“If the CNC does not get to work soon, it’s a shoe-in for Ouattara,” says journalist Alexis Gbansé Douadé. The CNC has not explained how it will choose its candidate for the presidency. CVV Shop Forum
It has no party machinery of its own or grassroots organisations other than those of the few intact political parties to participate, like Koulibaly’s LIDER. Ouattara’s supporters are convinced that he can win a majority in the first round of the 25 October vote.
Some of the CNC’s first policy debates have focused on the past rather than the future. Supporters have again brought up the issue of nationality. Ouattara’s supposed Burkinabe parentage was used to try to prevent him from standing for president in the 1990s.
Koulibaly is part of a vocal group arguing for the CNC to focus on its policy arguments. He says that despite the country’s strong macroeconomic growth figures, the life of the average Ivorian has not improved much.
He also points to the government’s failure to reform the armed forces, to create an impartial justice system and to make the electoral commission a truly independent and impartial body.
If the CNC is to provide a real challenge for Ouattara, its leaders will first have to figure out what it stands for before convincing voters that it offers a viable alternative to the current governing team.