Friday, October 23, 2015

Cote d’ivoire: Meet the oppositional candidates for presidential election

[Franck Kie] Cote d’Ivoire’s presidential elections are set to begin October 25th. The candidates who will face President Ouattara can be divided into three groups: Members of CNC (National Coalition for Change), which includes dissidents from PDCI-RDA and FPI, the candidate of FPI (Ivorian Popular Front, the historical party of opposition) and last but not least, independent candidates.

CNC candidates

Charles Konan Banny is currently the President of the CNC which is a coalition of members from different political parties facing President Ouattara during the upcoming elections. He is an historic member of PDCI-RDA, the political party which obtained independence and ruled the country during 33 years. Banny has refused to follow the party’s decision withold a candidate at the first round and support President Ouattara, whose party, RDR and PDCI, they are currently in an alliance with called RHDP. As a graduate of ESSEC and former Governor of the West African Central Bank, former Prime Minister, and former President of the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation and with strong international relationships, most observers view him as President Ouattara’s most credible opponent since they have the same background and international profile. At 72, it is likely his last chance to run; Banny believes that he is the only one candidate who will be able unify Cote d’Ivoire as he hasn’t been linked to any of the violence that Cote d’Ivoire underwent over the past decade. His main strength resides in his international profile, while his main weaknesses lies in the fact that he doesn’t have a political party machine behind him. Some have also suggested that he is not in touch with the people.

Mamadou Koulibaly, 58, is the President of LIDER (Liberty and Democracy for the Republic), a political party member of the CNC. Prior to creating his party in 2011, he was the Minister of Economy and Finance, and the President of the National Assembly from 2001 until 2012, under Laurent Gbagbo’s presidency. He used to be a member of FPI, but left the party following the violent post electoral crisis in 2011 and is now trying to solidify his place as a main player in Cote d’Ivoire’s political scene. He could definitely be a credible alternative to President Ouattara but as Charles Konan Banny, he lacks a national footprint and a strong political machine. He also announced that he would finally not present himself at the elections because the conditions aren’t in place for a fair vote.
Kouadio Konan Bertin, 47, also known as KKB, is the youngest candidate. Similarly to Charles Konan Banny, he is also a member of PDCI-RDA for which he used to be the Youth President of the party and also rejected the party’s wishes to vote for Ouattara and withhold a candidate. While he has been elected as a member of the National Assembly, it is still hard to determine at this stage whether he has a strong enough presence within the Ivorian political scene. As Konan Banny and Koulibaly, his main weakness also lies in the fact that he doesn’t have party support but for the three of them, it will be interesting to see how they are able to engage citizens that are disappointed from Ouattara’s regime as well as people from PDCI-RDA against the call to support Ouattara.
Independent candidate:

Essy Amara, 71, is a former Minister of State, Minister of Foreign Affairs and also Secretary General of the African Union. He used to be a member of CNC and the PDCI, but decided to announce his candidacy, when the party declared that they wouldn’t present a candidate. His main strength lies in the fact that he has a very good international reputation with his tenure as Ambassador of Côte d’Ivoire at the UN. He is also ‘clean’ as he wasn’t involved in the violence, which struck the country the past decade. On the other hand, his opponents would argue that he has been retired from the public life for almost 15 years now and that his networks might not be up to date. Moreover, similarly to the aforementioned candidates, he doesn’t really have a political party and machine behind him, plus, one would say that his health condition appears to be quite fragile. On October 7th he also suspended his participation in the elections stating that the conditions in which they will be organized are not fair for all candidates.
FPI candidate:

Pascal Affi N’guessan, 62, is a former Prime Minister and the President of FPI, the historical opposition party founded by former President Laurent Gbagbo who lost the last elections and is now facing the International Criminal Court (ICC). His main weakness resides in the fact that he faces a very strong opposition within his own camp that didn’t want to present a candidate at the elections while Laurent Gbagbo is still at the ICC. But at the same time and unlike the other candidates mentioned before, he still benefits from an established political party machine behind him which is a plus, even though these elections will also be a real test for him to evaluate his national popularity and weight.

President Ouattara’s camp expects him to win at the first round. However, even though the other candidates are disadvantaged in terms of financial resources, party support and opposition within their camps, every one of them still has a good chance to force President Ouattara into a second round where the result of the elections would become much more uncertain. These candidates will need the support of those disappointed with President Ouattara’s administration, in addition to supporters of former President Laurent Gbagbo. At this stage, it is quite unclear who has an advantage. In this elections, Ivorians are expected to vote beyond regional affiliation and ethnicity. As such, this election provides an opportunity to see which party is most able to engage the people and become a true political force in the country.

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