Politics makes for strange bedfellows: New alliances in Cote d’Ivoire
In a shock move to many, a partnership has been announced between the Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) and Front populaire ivoirien (FPI), two of the leading political parties in Cote d’Ivoire.
Traditionally from opposing political camps, the former adversaries have stated that they will be offering support to one another should either party reach a second round in the presidential elections due to be held in October 2020. As yet, there is no formal agreement between the two, though sources have indicated that there is a desire on the part of the PDCI to deepen the relationship into a formal alliance.The FPI, however, has made it clear that it will be extending an olive branch to all political partiesin the spirit of unity as they see that as the only way to move the country forward.
This approach is indeed refreshing as it shows that parties are doing their best to avoid any potential for violence in the country come 2020. Despite some claims that alliances are a guise for furthering personal interests, it seems unlikely that politicians would compromise their political ideologies and deeply held differences solely for personal gain. This gives credence to the theory that the FPI is genuinely seeking unity in the political system.
For PDCI, an alliance with the FPI may be one of the few remaining routes to electoral victory at a time when the PCDI has seen a number of defections to the ruling Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP) in recent months. The most recent of these is also the most senior. Ahoussou Jeannot-Kouadio, the speaker of the senate and vice-president of the PDCI was tempted into the fold of the ruling party by promises of development in his home region of Belier, and the wider central belt of the country.It is unclear yet what role, if any, Jeannot-Kouadio or any other former PDCI members will be given within the RHDP.
The flames of political rumour are being further stoked by parties and potential candidates responding to an on-going strike in the public education sector, running community clashes in Beoumi that have seen 14 killed in recent weeks.
Old guard stepping aside
It seems that the so-called ‘big men’ of Ivorian politics (Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bedie) will be making way for younger and often more moderate candidates such as former PM and national assembly president Guillaume Soro.
Soro served as prime minister under Gbagbo but commanded troops to help install Ouattara as president during the 2010-11 violence. Most recently, he held the post of president of the National Assembly but resigned in February and left the RHDP to form his new grouping, Comite Politique (CP).
Meanwhile, FBI founder Gbagbo will not attempt to stand as there is not enough support for him to warrant the unrest that his return to the country will likely cause. Likewise, PDCI leader Henri Konan Bedie is also unlikely to stand given his age and rumoured poor health. Furthermore, although he has yet to make his announcement, it seems likely that Outtara will in fact stand down instead of opting for another term.
Much could still happen before October 2020, and there will be little clarity on candidates and alliances until after Ouattara makes an official announcement on his decision to stand (expected in July). The most likely candidates we have so far are, current prime minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly and former PM, Guillaume Soro
Our conversations have lead us to believe that Ouattara favours Coulibaly as his replacement. Coulibaly would be the closest to a continuation of the reign of the ‘old guard’ of Ivorian politics. He is a long-standing ally of Ouattara’s and holds the position of first vice president of Ouattara’s the Rassemblement des Republicains (RDR) party (the party with which PDCI originally joined to form the RHDP).
Meanwhile, whilst Soro’s candidacy is all but confirmed, he will struggle to gain favour with RHDP members and an electorate who see him as having betrayed his political ‘father’, Ouattara – as one of our Abidjan-based contacts put it “there’s a real bras de fer between Soro and the RHDP.” This has led to speculation that he may also seek to court favour with Gbagbo- a man who is looking increasingly likely to hold the key to success for any successful challenger to Ouattara and the RHDP. This is due to the fact that none of the major parties are likely able to win the elections at the first attempt and, despite his having been on trial abroad for over seven years, other candidates know that Gbagbo’s following is loyal enough to follow his command, no matter how out of the ordinary it may seem.
Including the ruling RHDP, a former coalition that was made up of President Alassane Ouattara’s RDR and the PDCI but has since been reformed in to a standalone party.