Ivory Coast ruling party may ask president to stand again after PM dies

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara attends a national tribute ceremony for dead soldiers, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast’s ruling party may ask President Alassane Ouattara to rethink his decision not to stand for a third term, after the sudden death of his chosen successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, a party official said on Thursday.

Ouattara announced in March that he would not run in an election in October after 10 years in office, and designated Gon Coulibaly, his closest political ally, as the RHDP party’s candidate.

Gon Coulibaly’s death on Wednesday, less than a week after he returned to Ivory Coast from an extended medical leave in France for heart issues, left the RHDP scrambling to choose a replacement candidate.

RHDP Executive Secretary Adama Bictogo told journalists the party could ask Ouattara to reverse his decision not to stand.

“It’s clear we have to revisit the analysis he made at the time,” Bictogo said. “The context is new,” he said, adding that all options were on the table.

Earlier two sources said RHDP’s leaders had agreed at a closed-door meeting late on Wednesday to press Ouattara to run again.

The election is expected to be the most hotly contested since 2010, when Ouattara’s victory over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo sparked a brief civil war in which 3,000 people died.

Ouattara has previously said he would prefer to hand over power to a new generation, although he also says he has the right to run again under a new constitution adopted in 2016.

The opposition disputes that he can run again, and a decision for him to stand risks uniting opponents against him.

Bictogo said the party would announce its new candidate a week after Gon Coulibaly’s funeral next Tuesday. The deadline to submit the candidate’s name is Sept 1.

The presidency declined to comment on Thursday.

“He has always been a unanimous choice within his own camp. But (running again) would be extremely dangerous, particularly vis-a-vis the opposition, which would find a common enemy,” said Rinaldo Depagne, International Crisis Group’s West Africa project director.

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