Opposition parties led by two former presidents will try to shake off Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara in a parliamentary election on Saturday, five months after a presidential vote that led to deadly unrest.
Former President Henri Konan Bedie’s Democratic Party off the Ivory Coast (PDCI) and former President Laurent Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) both boycotted last year’s presidential election, which Ouattara won in a landslide.
Eighty-five people died in violence around the election, although the situation has since cooled.
A faction of the FPI that is loyal to Gbagbo and the PDCI is now putting forward a joint list of candidates against Ouattara’s Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP). Without reliable opinion polls available, their prospects are difficult to predict.
Clear control over Parliament would strengthen Ouattara’s hand in pursuing an agenda based on attracting foreign investment and cutting bureaucracy during his third term, while the vote could be crucial for the opposition to show that it is still relevant.
“Their credibility is at stake, because in the event of defeat, the opposition will be reduced to nothing and risk splitting further, and this can only benefit the party in power,” said Ousmane Zina, a political analyst.
Other opposition figures, such as former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who leads another FPI faction, are also outside the joint main list.
The PDCI, which dominated Côte d’Ivoire politics from the 1940s until Bedie was ousted as president in 1999, supported Ouattara for several years but shared with him in 2018.
Gbagbo’s FPI faction will field candidates for the first time since 2011, when Gbagbo was sent to The Hague to face charges of war crimes following a brief civil war triggered by his refusal to concede an election defeat to Ouattara. Gbagbo, acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2019, is expected to return to the country soon.
“For us, this legislative choice must be the beginning of the return to power and the opposition’s return to power,” said Gbagbo’s 50-year-old son Michel, a candidate.
Patrick Achi, Ouattara’s chief of staff, told a campaign rally in the south-east of the country that the election was important.
“It must confirm victory in the presidential election and give President Ouattara the parliamentary majority he needs to pursue his economic and social policies during this period.”