Côte d’Ivoire: Opposition parties take on Alassane Ouattara

By Vincent Duhem, in Abidjan

Posted on Monday, 21 September 2020 16:41
Ivory Coast Elections
Former president Henri Konan Bedie, 86, gestures to supporters at a party rally to celebrate his presidential candidacy for the opposition PDCI-RDA party and as a show of strength ahead of next months presidential election, in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Diomande Ble Blonde)

During a meeting on 20 September, a group of Ivorian opposition parties established several prerequisites for their participation in the presidential election set to take place on 31 October.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the electoral process has not yet gone off the rails, but it is close to reaching a deadlock. Less than a week after the list of approved candidates for the 31 October presidential election was announced, the Constitutional Council’s decisions are not entirely to the opposition’s liking.

During a meeting on Sunday 20 September, the main opposition parties demanded the outright withdrawal of Alassane Ouattara’s candidacy for a third term, steadfast in their belief that the constitution prohibits him from standing for election.

A call for ‘civil disobedience’

The opposition also made a list of conditions for their participation in the upcoming election, such as the dissolution of the Constitutional Council and the Electoral Commission, as well as an “in-depth reform of the legislative and institutional framework for elections”.

READ MORE Côte d’Ivoire/France: Ouattara refuses Macron’s request to delay polls

Lastly, opposition party leaders called on citizens “to hold demonstrations across the country”, without providing any specific instructions for the time being.

For his part, Henri Konan Bédié (HKB), whose presidential bid was approved, issued a call for “civil disobedience”, although he didn’t elaborate on the concrete meaning the phrase other than describing it as “legitimate citizen action”.

Besides the coalition led by the president of the Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), several parties and party groupings have joined HKB’s call to arms: Georges Armand Ouegnin’s Assembly for Democracy and Sovereignty (EDS), which includes the fringe of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) representing Laurent Gbagbo, Albert Mabri Toikeusse’s Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d’Ivoire (UDPCI), Guillaume Soro’s Generations and People in Solidarity (GPS), Mamadou Koulibaly’s LIDER and Danielle Boni Claverie’s Republican Union for Democracy (URD).

Affi and KKB not in attendance

However, Pascal Affi N’Guessan and Kouadio Konan Bertin (KKB), the two other approved presidential candidates, were not in attendance. Locked in a dispute with Gbagbo, Affi N’Guessan did nevertheless meet with Bédié on 17 September and wanted to participate in the meeting.

READ MORE Côte d’Ivoire’s Ouattara announces third term bid in October vote

“PDCI ended up choosing a different format,” Affi N’Guessan said, adding he “supported” the statements made by the opposition: “We are on the same wavelength.” The former prime minister is due to see Bédié in the coming days. “It’s possible he [Affi N’Guessan]  will be involved in the talks,” said a person close to Gbagbo.

The opposition’s remarks echo those made by Soro three days earlier in Paris. “I call for unity of action by the opposition to stop Mr Ouattara in his mad venture by all legal and legitimate means. I ask the candidates, whether their bids were approved or not, and more specifically President Bédié, President Gbagbo, former prime minister Affi N’Guessan, and former ministers Amon-Tanoh and Mabri Toikeusse, to assume our collective responsibility and stand together against Ouattara […] Together, we must organise the mobilisation of the entire Ivorian people, including everyone across the countryside, the hamlets, the villages and the cities, to block Ouattara’s anti-constitutional third term,” said the former National Assembly president, whose candidacy was denied by the Constitutional Council.

Fears of violence

As feared by many observers ever since Ouattara’s decision to stand for a third term, the fate of the presidential election may very well be determined in the streets. Several marches have already been held since 13 August.

READ MORE Côte d’Ivoire: Ouattara’s bid for 3rd term opens up a can of worms

Although the demonstrations have yet to be widely attended, they have taken a significant toll on human life – with more than 10 people killed – and property. Authorities have responded by prohibiting any form of public gathering through 30 September, while several opposition and civil society figures have been arrested.

On 18 September, the European Union issued a statement in which it “deplores the violence and clashes in recent weeks which have claimed the lives of several people” and “calls on the authorities to investigate” the events “in order to prosecute the perpetrators”.

The EU also calls for the “respect of public freedoms, including the right for every citizen to demonstrate peacefully, within the framework provided by law, without interference, and to express political opinions without being arrested or imprisoned”.

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