Africa  

Ivory Coast leader seeks bigger majority to keep economy strong

Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara casts his vote in the ballot box, at a polling station in Abidjan, on October 30, 2016, during a vote for a referendum on a new constitution. Voters in Ivory Coast went to the polls on October 30, 2016 to determine the fate of constitutional changes that President Alassane Ouattara says will help end years of instability and unrest linked to the vexed issue of national identity. / AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU

Alassane Ouattara / AFP PHOTO / SIA KAMBOU

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara is hoping voters will shore up his parliamentary majority Sunday to help keep the world’s top cocoa producer in the fast economic lane.

The weeklong election campaign was peaceful, but the authorities have ordered some 30,000 security forces into the street in the wake of scattered incidents in recent months, including attacks on police posts.

“Give me a strong majority to enable me to speed up the work that I have set as an objective in the four years to come,” Ouattara said in a TV broadcast, playing up his economic achievements to win support among the 6.2 million voters.

The country was long the star economic performer in the region until hitting a decade of political strife but is back on the rails.

The International Monetary Fund has said the west African state will be the continent’s fastest-growing economy this year.

The presidential coalition — named the Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) in tribute to the country’s founding president — aims to take an absolute majority in a National Assembly comprised of 255 members of parliament.

Most observers and even some in the opposition acknowledge the economic benefits of Ouattara’s rule, but find his political record less convincing.

National reconciliation after a decade of strife and violence at the last legislative polls in 2011 remains unfinished, the judiciary is under fire, and the opposition shunned a constitutional referendum in October.

Ouattara, known to Ivorians by his initials “ADO”, has enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly because the opposition boycotted parliamentary polls in 2011 in the wake of a bloody political crisis.

Ouattara’s predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat in a long-delayed presidential poll in November 2010, sparking conflict that claimed 3,000 lives before Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011.

Gbagbo is being tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity, but part of his former party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), has decided to participate in Sunday’s election.

“The politics of the empty chair hasn’t brought any fruit,” commented former prime minister Pascal Affi Nguessan. “The battle to come is to conquer the National Assembly.”

No fewer than 1,337 candidates are standing in the single-round poll, in which winner takes all in each constituency.

This electoral system has forced Ouattara’s own Rally of Republicans (RDR) party to find common ground with other parties in the RHDP coalition, particularly its main allies of the Ivory Coast Democratic Party.

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Alassane Ouattara
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