In the wake of former prime minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly’s death, Côte d’Ivoire’s ruling RHDP alliance must now find a replacement candidate for the October presidential election. The decision is made more pressing by the candidacy of former president Henri Konan Bédié.
The announcement in March that President Alassane Ouattara would not seek re-election was followed by the nomination of Coulibaly as the RHDP candidate, which helped to calm tensions in the country. The opposition had been heavily critical of Ouattara possibly running for a third term, even though he was technically allowed to do so following the ratification of major constitutional amendments in 2016. Now that Ouattara’s potential successor has died, members of his original party, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR), have been urging him to run.
Two Potential Candidates
Should Ouattara keep to his previous commitment not to run for president again, two people in the RHDP alliance stand out as potential candidates.
The first is Hamed Bakayoko, the minister of defense, who is popular among the Ivorian youth for his friendship with celebrities, like the late DJ Arafat, and who enjoys the support of First Lady Dominique Ouattara. While Coulibaly was on medical leave in Paris for two months, Bakayoko stood in as acting prime minister, and his performance in the position boosted his support within the RHDP.
Another potential candidate is Patrick Achi, the secretary-general of the RHDP and a close ally of Ouattara. Achi served as minister of the interior from 2000 to 2017 under both former president Laurent Gbagbo and Ouattara. More importantly, he was a former high-ranking member of the PDCI, the party of Henri Konan Bédié. Achi has maintained good relations with his former party, and previously served as mediator between Ivorian political figures and movements. Good mediation skills would be invaluable for a future head of state to have, especially since Ouattara’s initial ascension to power came at the cost of a debilitating civil war.