Ivory Coast’s Ruling Party Paves Way for President to Seek Fourth Term

(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast’s ruling party is mobilizing support for President Alassane Ouattara to seek a controversial fourth term in office.

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The Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace has held a series of events in recent weeks, culminating in a ceremony over the weekend to show cocoa farmers’ support for the incumbent leader. Ouattara, who has held power since 2011, hasn’t yet said whether he’ll seek reelection in October 2025.

Under Ivorian law, presidents are only allowed to serve two terms, but Ouattara and his party have argued that a new constitution adopted in 2016 wiped his slate clean — an assertion upheld by the country’s top judicial body in 2020. Ouattara won a third term in October of that year, securing 94% of the vote after the opposition boycotted the contest.

Prime Minister Robert Beugre Mambe announced at a ceremony in the capital, Yamoussoukro, on Saturday that he had received a 50 million CFA ($82,650) donation from cocoa farmers as a contribution toward the deposit the 82-year-old Ouattara would have to pay to apply to be a candidate in the presidential race. Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest cocoa producer.

In May, Vice President Tiemoko Meyliet Kone chaired a party event in Korhogo, the biggest city in northern Ivory Coast, a Ouattara stronghold, to announce the incumbent as the ruling party’s preferred candidate.

In 2020, party leaders had also campaigned for Ouattara to run after the sudden death of his handpicked successor, Amadou Gon Coulibaly. Ouattara announced he’d run less than three months before those elections, saying he’d heeded their calls and that he wanted to secure the gains made during his first decade in office.

Ivory Coast’s economy expanded at least 7% a year between 2012 and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. The growth rate reached 6.9% in 2022 and 6.2% in 2023, buoyed by large investments in infrastructure and the discovery of oil deposits.

In a major boost to Ouattara’s popularity, Ivory Coast hosted and won the African Cup of Nations, the continent’s biggest football event, earlier this year. Critics however accuse his administration of being nepotistic and of limiting civil rights by banning protests.

If the former International Monetary Fund official were to run, he’d likely face former Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam, who now leads the main opposition, the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast.

Former president, Laurent Gbagbo, who spent a decade in The Hague before being acquitted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court, and Charles Ble Goude, a former youth minister who was also acquitted, may also stand, if they are cleared to run.

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