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Op-Ed: How to read Côte d'Ivoire's legislative election results

PUBLISHED: Wed, 04 Jan 2017 14:52:18 GMT

On Tuesday, December 20, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) published official results of the legislative election held on Sunday, December 18.

President Alassane Ouattara’s coalition, the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), obtained an outright majority: 167 seats out of 254 elected (the National Assembly has 255 seats, but one constituency is to run a by-election early in January).

Official turnout was 34.1% compared to 36.6% in 2011.

This is a relief for Ouattara who now has a clear legislative majority to work with until his current term in office ends in 2020.

The RHDP is a coalition between Ouattara’s Rally of the Republicans (RDR) and the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI) of ex-President Henri Konan Bédié.

The formation of this coalition, as we wrote ahead of the election, left many unlucky contenders dissatisfied, and many of these – the largest number ever in an Ivoirian election – ran as independents. And many were successful: 75 independents were elected on Sunday, making them the second-largest bloc in Parliament.

It is to be expected, however, that some of the independents will ultimately join the RHDP’s majority caucus for the benefits in terms of committee jobs that that would bring.

Two smaller parties, the Union for Democracy and Peace in the Ivory Coast (UDPCI) and the Union for the Ivory Coast (UPCI) got six and three seats, respectively: below the threshold of eight seats required to form a parliamentary group.

We think they, too, will look favourably on offers from the RHDP.

The opposition Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) suffered a nasty disappointment: the former ruling party of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo won only three seats in the National Assembly, for 187 candidates. Pascal Affi N’Guessan, the party leader who urged participation, won his constituency.

The poor showing will weaken Mr Affi in relation to his rival party leader, Aboudramane Sangaré, who urged a boycott (which seems to have been fairly successful judging from the low turnout). 

The RHDP did better than we were expecting, and the FPI worse; although it should be noted that the RHDP’s total of 167 is smaller than the total of 204 achieved separately by its constituent parties, the RDR and PDCI, in 2011 when the FPI was boycotting.

The process of forming the RHDP has made the structure weaker, and, while Mr Ouattara has an advantage right now, we think rivalries and resentments will become more important as the 2020 presidential election comes closer and ambitious rivals start planning their runs in earnest.

Over the medium-term, the president’s legislative clout is reason to expect further streamlining of the business and investment environment, which is positive for the economy.

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