Former President and opposition leader in the West African Ivory Coast, Henri Konan Bédié, on Wednesday, called for a “massive” vote in the March 6 legislative elections.
“President Gbagbo and I solemnly call” all Ivorians “lovers of fraternity and democracy to participate in the legislative elections” and this “massively”, said Mr Bédié in a message read to the press at his home in Abidjan.
Bedie and Gbagbo’s parties are in an alliance in a bid to take over control of the country’s parliament.
Laurent Gbagbo has been living in exile in Brussels since being released from ICC detention in 2019. His return to Ivory Coast was announced in December but has been delayed.
Bédié and Gbagbo did not recognize the October 2020 re-election of President Alassane Ouattara to a controversial third term, but they nonetheless decided to participate in the legislative elections.
Violence related to the presidential election, boycotted by the opposition who had called for “civil disobedience,” left 87 dead and nearly 500 wounded.
However, after a dialogue between Bédié and Ouattara, gestures of appeasement by the government, including the conditional release of several of their leaders who had been arrested, Bédié and Gbagbo decided to participate in the legislative elections.
Their parties, Bédié’s Parti démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI) and Gbagbo’s Front populaire ivoirien (FPI), formed an alliance in preparation for the elections.
Their participation, a first in ten years for the pro-Gbagbo FPI, “translates primarily, before history, our categorical refusal of the flagrant violation of our Constitution and what follows,” said Bédié.
“We must therefore take the majority in the National Assembly to (…) avoid the consolidation of absolute power in our country (…) reconcile Ivorians with the return of exiles, the release of all political and military detainees, the establishment of dialogue at all levels of the nation,” he said.
In the last legislative elections of December 2016, the Rassemblement des Houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP, in power) and the PDCI, then allies, had won an absolute majority with 167 seats out of 255.