December 8, 2010 / 5:17 PM / 9 years ago

Penpix: Ivory Coast's two rivals for the presidency

(Reuters) - Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Outtara both say they won Ivory Coast’s November 28 presidential election. Here are brief portraits:


— Gbagbo was sworn in as president on December 4 and has named a new government in defiance of calls from the United Nations, the United States, France and others to accept provisional results of the November 28 poll that made Ouattara the clear winner.

— In power since 2000, Gbagbo’s mandate ran out in 2005 but a presidential election had been delayed until 2010 because of instability.

— He rose to prominence as a Marxist firebrand lecturer who challenged the autocratic rule of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ivory Coast’s first post-independence president. That got him imprisoned in a military camp for two years in 1971.

— Since then he has emerged as a nationalist. His supporters are accused of xenophobic rhetoric toward mostly Muslim migrants from neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, sentiments largely behind the 2002-03 civil war.

— He is a Sorbonne-educated history professor but prides himself on being in touch with ordinary Ivorians, frequently bursting into the local street slang version of French.

— He put Ivory Coast on a collision course with its former colonial master in 2004, when the Ivorian military killed nine French peacekeepers in a bombing and France retaliated by destroying the Ivorian air force. His supporters attacked French expatriates, forcing 8,000 to be evacuated.

— He has pledged to double cocoa production from its current annual 1.2 million tones. His government plans to overhaul the cocoa sector in line with debt relief conditions from the IMF and World Bank.


— Ouattara was declared winner of the November 28 run-off presidential poll with 54.1 percent of the vote compared with 45.9 percent for Gbagbo. On December 3 Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo winner of the poll cancelling hundreds of thousands of votes in Ouattara strongholds, alleging fraud. — A former prime minister under the country’s first post-independence president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ouattara, 68, gained a reputation for good economic management and later joined the IMF, rising to deputy head.

— He is from the mainly Muslim north of Ivory Coast and was excluded from running for alleged Burkinabe origins in the 2000 poll after coup leader Robert Guei tightened the rules to bar anyone whose parents are not both Ivorian.

— In the past, Gbagbo has not shied away from insinuating that Ouattara is Burkinabe and has no right to run. Because of ties with France, he has been painted as a French stooge.

— The rebels have backed his cause, though he has always denied having any part in the rebellion himself.

— His election pledges included reforming the cocoa sector to give half the international price to farmers, broadly in line with Gbagbo’s government plans. He has pledged to overhaul healthcare and education with a big program of rural clinic and school building.

Additional writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit

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