Thursday, August 6, 2015

Presidential Election Extravaganza this October, Part 2: Cote d'Ivoire

Yesterday, Cote d'Ivoire's government fixed Oct. 25 as the date for the upcoming presidential election. President Alassane Ouattara, candidate for the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party, officially registered his candidacy with the election commission later in the day.

Having the election scheduled for the correct month is a sign of major progress. The 2005 election didn't happen until 2010, thanks to the Civil War. Ouattara won the 2010 election against the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in a run-off that was so close that the Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner with 51% of the vote, despite the Independent Election Commission declaring Ouattara the winner with 54%. Gbagbo, with support from the army, was sworn in as president in the presidential palace and Ouattara was sworn in at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where he had a parallel government protected by UN soldiers.  The international community, including ECOWAS, stood with Ouattara, and after a second civil war the Constitutional Council reversed its position and confirmed Ouattara's victory. 

Ouattara, who served as prime minister under Pres. Félix Houphouët-Boigny (PDCI) from 1990 until the president's death in 1993, is the front runner in the upcoming election, with 77% job approval ratings. 

  • Pascal Affi N'Guessan, who heads Gbagbo's Ivorian Patriotic Front (FPI), and
  • the National Coalition for Change, a new bloc composed largely of PDCI dissidents and a faction of FPI hardliners.
Here is a quick background on Cote d'Ivoire's politics:

  • 1960: Independence. Houphouet-Boigny (Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire-African Democratic Rally, PDCI-RDA) wins first of many single-party elections for the presidency
  • 1960s-1970s: Houphouet-Boigny continued colonial policy of welcoming immigrants to increase cocoa production 
    • Nearly one third of the country are immigrants descendants of immigrants from Mali & Burkina Faso 
    • Immigration patterns led to Muslims (39%), mostly in the North, outnumbering Christians (33%)
  • Under Houphouet-Boigny, high-level positions went to members of his Baoule ethnic group (e.g., President of the National Assembly Bedie) and to Northerners (e.g., Prime Minister Ouattara). (Ethnicity was not the only consideration - these two men were also highly qualified, with senior roles at the IMF, for example.)
President Houphouet-Boigny, "Le Vieux"
Bedié                                                      Ouattara

  • Cote d'Ivoire, with an economy that outpaced most of the continent, was known as the Ivorian Miracle for many years
  • Houphouet-Boigny spent hundreds of millions of dollars on favored projects, such as the largest church in the world in his home town, Yamoussoukro
  • The Ivorien miracle ended in the late 1970s, when coffee and cocoa prices fell. GDP per capita dropped while population continued to rise, leading to "Sons of the Soil"-type conflicts - native Ivorians began to resent immigrants who had been welcomed by the state in previous decades. The high and not always profitable government spending led to high debts (in 1987, the government suspended payments on foreign debt), which constrained the government's ability to stimulate the economy. 

  • As the pie shrank, ethnic politics turned from inclusion to exclusion, leading to violence:
    • 1993: Hours before H-B died, National Assembly President Bedié announces himself president of the nation
    • 1995: Bedié has the constitution amended (CORRECTION: The 1994 Electoral Code was adopted in 1994, and a new constitution was adopted in 2000) to prevent Ouattara from running - candidates must not only born in Cote d'Ivoire, BOTH PARENTS must also be born in Cote d'Ivoire
    • 1999: Bedié overthrown in a coup led by General Guéi
    • 2000: Gen. Guéi loses presidential election to opposition leader Laurent Gbagbo (FPI) (Bedié & Ouattara were both banned from running)
    • 2002: Northerner soldiers mutiny 
    • 2002-2008: Civil war; Gbagbo resists elections
    • 2010: Presidential election. Independent Election Commission says Ouattara won runoff, Constitutional Council says Gbagbo won. Return to civl war until 2011. 

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