Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on Saturday he would run for a third term if his predecessors decided to compete in the 2020 election, a vote seen as a major test of stability for the country after two civil wars this century. The election already looks highly unpredictable.
Ouattara’s main coalition partner defected in 2018, and his bitter rival, former president Laurent Gbagbo, could return after being acquitted of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Ouattara, 77, has said he intends to hand power to a younger generation, but he has also argued that a constitutional change in 2016 has cancelled previous term limits, enabling him to stand again. His opponents dispute this.
Addressing thousands of supporters at a rally in the central town of Katiola, Ouattara said: “I want everyone in my generation to step aside.”
But “if they decide to be a candidate, then I will be a candidate,” he said, referring to Gbagbo, 74, and 85-year-old former president and ally, Henri Konan Bedie.
The alliance struck in 2005 between Ouattara’s RDR and Bedie’s PDCI was meant to dominate for generations and help heal the political rifts that led to civil war three years earlier. But the pact that propelled Ouattara to presidential election victories in 2010 and 2015 collapsed in September 2018, as the parties bickered over whose candidate should be in pole position next time round.
Bedie’s party is expected to announce its candidate in 2020.