IVORIAN President Alassane Ouattara has announced he will run for President again in October, despite having already been president for two terms – the legal maximum.
His declaration follows the death of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly from a heart attack last month. Coulibaly had been seen as Ouattara’s preferred successor in the upcoming contest.
Ouattara’s opponents are maintaining that the constitution forbids him serving a third term.
In a televised address, Ouattara made reference to Coulibaly’s death in his justification for running:
‘Faced with this case of force majeure and out of civic duty, I have decided to respond favourably to the call of my fellow citizens asking me to be a candidate in the presidential election of 31 October 2020.’
The opposition centre-left Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) immediately condemned Ouattara’s decision to contest the election. They and other opponents say the two-term limit in the constitution bars him from running again, but Ouattara has said that his first two terms do not count under the new constitution adopted in 2016.
A sometimes controversial figure, Ouattara sacked his government in a row over a new marriage law to make wives joint heads of the household in 2012.
He was originally elected in 2010, but previous incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down. Approximately 3,000 died in the ensuing conflict, with Gbagbo eventually arrested. Ouattara had been recognised as the winner by election observers, the African Union and the international community.
Gbagbo was eventually acquitted of four counts of crimes against humanity relating to the 2010-2011 conflict and was freed conditionally by the International Criminal Court. He has applied for a passport so that he can return to Cote d’Ivoire for the election.
The poll is also being contested by Gbagbo’s former prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Ouattara’s arch-foe and former president Henri Konan Bedie and former foreign minister Marcel Amon-Tanoh.