I Coast governing party asks President Ouattara to stand again

RHDP executive director says incumbent president is the ‘solution’ after death of chosen successor, PM Coulibaly.

Ivory Coast’s governing party says it has asked President Alassane Ouattara to seek a third term in the country’s upcoming elections following the death of his chosen successor earlier this month.

“A majority of our supporters have turned to President Alassane Ouattara. He is our solution, and I have explained this to him,” the RHDP party’s executive director, Adama Bictogo, told RFI radio on Monday.

Ouattara, 78, had said he would step down and named his close ally, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, as the RHDP party’s candidate for the October 31 ballot.

The 61-year-old Coulibaly, who underwent heart surgery in 2012, became unwell during a weekly cabinet meeting on July 8. He was taken to hospital where he passed away.

This left the RHDP without a candidate in the run-up to a crucial election that analysts say is expected to test stability in the world’s biggest cocoa producer.

The vote is expected to be the most hotly contested since 2010, when Ouattara defeated incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat. The months-long standoff, until Gbagbo’s arrest in April 2011, killed some 3,000 people and left lingering divisions.

Ouattara won a landslide victory in 2015 to secure a second term.

Coulibaly’s death created a political vacuum and raised fears of a scramble for power. Bictogo, the RHDP party’s executive director, said Ouattara’s candidacy would help avoid bitter succession battles.

“Why should we take the risk when we have this certainty,” he said.

“If he [Ouattara] refuses, we then we’ll look into it and make a decision. For now, I have no other candidate in mind,” he said, adding that Ouattara would announce his decision in the next few days.

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.

Former President Henri Konan Bedie, 86, has declared that he will run in the election.

There has also been uncertainty about the political ambitions of Gbagbo. He has been acquitted of crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) but has been unable to return home to Ivory Coast where he still has considerable support. Prosecutors at the ICC are appealing his acquittal.

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