Monday, January 3, 2011

(Former) President of Cote d'Ivoire continues to refuse to step down

Laurent Gbagbo, who has been president of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) since 2000, refuses to recognize the results of the election held November 28, which international observers agree was won by his opponent, Alassane Ouattara. "Ivory Coast's constitutional court, run by a staunch Gbagbo ally, reversed the U.N.-ratified electoral commission results showing a Ouattara win, citing massive evidence of fraud."

The irony is that when Gbagbo was first elected, the head of the state at the time,  General Robert Guei, claimed that he had won the election, but Gbagbo insisted that he was the true winner, and street protests of Gbagbo supporters convinced Guei to recognize the results.  Furthermore, the only reason Gbagbo won in the first place was because Guei had outlawed the other competitors, including former president Henri Konan Bedie (who was overthrown by Guei in 1999) and Ouatarra. 

Ouattara may be the most viable presidential candidate since Félix Houphouët-Boigny died in 1993, after ruling the country for 33 years.  Ouattara was Prime Minister from 1990-1993 and carried out presidential duties for the last 18 months, as Houphouet-Boigny was ill.  A few hours after Houphouet-Boigny died, Bedie, the President of the National Assembly under Houphouet-Boigny, went on national television and announced that he was the new president. A few months later he was elected president of the ruling party, the PDCI. Before facing Ouattara in the 1995 presidential election, Bedie had the electoral code changed so that candidates with a foreign-born parent were barred from running in order to disqualify Ouatarra, enabling Bedie to win virtually uncontested (Gbagbo also boycotted this election). Guei overthrew Bedie in 1999 (Guei was originally dismissed as chief of the army in 1995 for refusing to mobilize troops against Ouattara). In 2000, Ouattara was still disqualified, as was Emile Constant Bombet and Bedie, enabling Gbagbo to win.  Civil war broke out a few years later, and although Gbagbo's term was supposed to end in 1995, it has been extended continuously because of the war and delayed elections. 

So Gbagbo saying Ouattara shouldn't take office because of elections irregularities is pretty rich. In any case, the international community, including the UN, has endorsed the results from the country's own electoral commission that Outarra won by over 8 percentage points, 54.1 to 45.9.  Hopefully Gbagbo will accept reality soon before serious civil war re-erupts. The reason Gbagbo became president in the first place is because protestors called on the incumbent to recognize the results - following the Gbagbo's refusal in early December, protestors took to the streets, burning tires and so on.  

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