09 October 2020
- Opposition calls for strikes and protests will significantly raise security risks over election period, but President Ouattara remains poll frontrunner
- Anti-Ouattara campaign will intensify inter-ethnic north-south divisions, raising risks of violent protests in build-up to and following presidential vote
- Ouattara’s popularity following years of economic growth will likely ensure he wins 50% of votes, avoiding second-round run-off in late November
An anti-government movement led by Henri Konan Bédié, a leading opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential election, announced plans for a civil disobedience campaign on 2 October in protest at President Alassane Ouattara’s bid for a third term in office. The campaign is set to begin from 10 October, with a rally in the Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium in the Plateau district of Abidjan, and last until election day on 31 October. The planned rally will be attended by representatives of the opposition Popular Ivorian Front (FPI) party and other groups led by exiled opposition leaders. These include former President Laurent Gbagbo, former minister Charles Blé Goudé and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro. The call for civil disobedience comes amid a ban on protests and public gatherings – in place until at least 14 October – as part of efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Bédié formed his anti-Ouattara alliance on 20 September, alleging that the incumbent president’s move to stand for office is in breach of the constitutional two-term limit. Ouattara, whose decision to run follows the death in July of his expected successor, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, maintains that a new constitution adopted in 2016 reset the two-term limit, allowing him to stand again. Nonetheless, he has faced criticism after the courts handed jail terms to Gbagbo, Soro and Blé Goudé – supposedly at his direction – barring them from running against him in the polls. Bédié also alleges that Ouattara’s influence over the election board and the constitutional court led to the acceptance of just four electoral candidates – out of 44 who applied to stand – a move that prompted his Democratic Party of Cote d’Ivoire and the FPI to withdraw their representatives from the election board. Amid these mounting tensions, and fearing electoral…