PARIS (Reuters) – Ivory Coast’s ruling party said on Monday it had asked President Alassane Ouattara to stand for a third term after the death of his chosen successor.
Ouattara, 78, had said he would step down and named his close ally, Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, as the RHDP party’s candidate for the Oct. 31 ballot.
But Gon Coulibaly died on July 8, leaving the party without a candidate in the run-up to an election that is expected to test political stability in the world’s top cocoa producing nation.
The vote is expected to be the most hotly contested since 2010, when Ouattara’s victory over incumbent Laurent Gbagbo sparked a brief civil war in which 3,000 people died.
Coulibaly’s death, less than a week after he returned to Ivory Coast from an extended medical leave in France for heart issues, had raised fears of a scramble for power.
“A majority of our supporters have turned to President Alassane Ouattara. He is our solution, and I have explained this to him,” the party’s executive director, Adama Bictogo, told RFI radio.
Ouattara’s candidacy would help avoid bitter succession battles, Bictogo added.
“Why should we take the risk when we have this certainty,” he said. “If he (Ouattara) refuses, we then we’ll look into it and make a decision. For now, I have no other candidate in mind.”
Ouattara would announce his decision in the next few days, Bictogo said.
Ouattara has previously said he would prefer to hand over power to a new generation, although he also says he has the right to run again under a new constitution adopted in 2016.
Octogenarian ex-president Henri Konan Bedie of the former ruling PDCI party has declared that he will run in the election.
(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Heavens)