Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo, still ineligible and new candidate

Thirteen years after his fall, Laurent Gbagbo sets out again to conquer power

Ivory Coast: Laurent Gbagbo, still ineligible and new candidate

Thirteen years after his fall, Laurent Gbagbo sets out again to conquer power. The central committee of its formation, the African People's Party-Côte d'Ivoire (PPA-CI), announced on Saturday March 9, in a press release, that it had "decided that President Laurent Gbagbo be the candidate of the PPA-CI for the 2025 presidential election,” adding that the latter “submitted willingly to the will of the central committee.” A risky bet, as the former head of state, aged 78, was removed from the electoral lists in 2020 and remains ineligible.

“He is our leader, the emblematic leader of our party,” insists Jean-Gervais Tchéidé, the secretary general of the PPA-CI, to justify the decision of his formation. After his election to the presidency of the Republic in 2000, Laurent Gbagbo never had time to implement his program, believes Mr. Tchéidé, who describes his political work as an “unfinished symphony”.

“Barely eighteen months later, he faced an attempted coup that turned into a rebellion, which took hold in the northern half of the country. Then, we could only fight to reunify the country. » Until Laurent Gbagbo was overthrown after refusing to leave power following the lost 2010 election and found himself incarcerated in the detention center of the International Criminal Court (ICC), on the outskirts of The Hague (Netherlands). Bottom), in 2011.

The BCEAO “heist”

The former president was finally acquitted of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC in January 2019, but remained under the sentence handed down a year earlier by the Ivorian courts to twenty years in prison for the “robbery”. of the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) during the post-electoral crisis of 2010-2011. Returning to Ivory Coast in June 2021, he was pardoned the following year by President Alassane Ouattara. But unlike an amnesty, the measure did not erase the conviction from his criminal record and therefore did not allow him to regain his civil rights.

“Everyone knows that his twenty-year sentence is political, intended to eliminate an adversary,” says Mr. Tchéidé. Alassane Ouattara was ineligible in 2000 [the ruling junta, led by Robert Guéï, had rejected his candidacy on the grounds of “questionable nationality”]. In 2005, it was President Laurent Gbagbo who took the decision, exceptionally, to authorize the candidacy of Alassane Ouattara, which allowed him to be elected in 2010.”

A gesture that the PPA-CI hopes in return, almost two decades later, from President Ouattara. “We are expecting a political gesture from him,” says Mr. Tchéidé. May he demonstrate the desire to erase, once and for all, the after-effects of the 2011 post-electoral crisis so that we can move forward together! »

But even in the case of an amnesty or a political agreement that would authorize his candidacy, the chances of Laurent Gbagbo becoming president again remain slim. The PPA-CI failed to make its debut in the local elections of September 2023, winning under its own banner two municipalities out of 201 and no regions out of 31, and nine municipalities and one region thanks to the alliance lists with the other major party opposition, the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI).

The only way to reverse the decline, believes political scientist Geoffroy-Julien Kouao, would be for Laurent Gbagbo to “reconcile the Ivorian left, that is to say, to convince Pascal Affi N'Guessan, of the FPI [Ivorian Popular Front, Laurent Gbagbo's former party], Simone Gbagbo [his ex-wife, head of the Movement of Capable Generations] and Charles Blé Goudé [his former right-hand man, who heads the Pan-African Congress for Justice and Equality of Peoples ] to join him.” Otherwise, he anticipates, “it will be a testimonial candidacy for him”, which will allow him to remain present in political news, but without any real hope of winning.

“He didn’t give up anything.”

The PPA-CI does not seem to have a choice. “This desire for candidacy on the part of Laurent Gbagbo clearly shows that the PPA-CI does not yet have other political frameworks capable of confronting the RHDP [Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace, in power] in 2025 », analyzes Mr. Kouao. “He has not given up on anything and especially not on politics,” summarizes one of his close friends.

Laurent Gbagbo never officially designated an heir and the young party executives suffered a severe disappointment during the municipal and regional elections. The son of the former president, Michel Gbagbo, failed to win the Abidjan commune of Yopougon against the RHDP, his ex-son-in-law Stéphane Kipré lost Haut-Sassandra, the ex-secretary general Damana Pickass was defeated in the Gbôklè and former spokesperson Justin Koné Katinan in Port-Bouët. “Their entire reconquest strategy revolves around the person of Laurent Gbagbo. The political rhetoric of the PPA-CI clearly shows that there is no alternative to its candidacy,” continues Mr. Kouao.

If the decision of the central committee is validated by a convention or an extraordinary congress of the PPA-CI, Laurent Gbagbo will be the first candidate to officially run for the presidency of the Republic in 2025. The leader of the PDCI, Tidjane Thiam, who succeeds the former president Henri Konan Bédié, who died last year, has already announced his presidential ambitions, which will also have to be validated by a party convention. Alassane Ouattara, for his part, has not yet decided on a candidacy for a fourth term, even if some in his entourage are already preparing it.