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Can Ivorian Voters Survive a Disappointing Result?

An air of fear and uncertainty looms large over the presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire as the country struggles to shake off its turbulent past. Numerous factors are critical in determining whether the elections have a peaceful or violent outcome for a country that has lived through two civil wars this century. The first bout of conflict lasted between 2002 and 2007. The second ravaged the country from 2010 to 2011. This history is affecting the mood in the country in direct as well as indirect ways. The foremost direct effect is the question of the legitimacy of presidential candidates. These include two principal actors in the country’s past armed conflicts – Laurent Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro. Both are on the ballot, even though they’re both living abroad to avoid incarceration. Given the roles each of these men played in the civil wars that plagued the country in the past, their reemergence as presidential candidates is capable of reviving old divisions and animosities. These are capable of threatening the peace and development that the country has enjoyed since the end of the war. Further complicating the tense political atmosphere – as evidenced by many protests which have already claimed some lives – is the fallout from President Alassane Ouattara’s decision to renounce his pledge not to run for a third five-year term.