NEWSMAKER-Gbagbo plays nationalist card for Ivorian run-off

Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:06am GMT

* Gbagbo campaign stokes nationalist fire

* President remains a master at charging angry crowds

By Tim Cocks

ABIDJAN, Nov 28 (Reuters) - The face of Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo beams down from posters everywhere, but the one that best sums up his nationalist campaign is the one that says: "Laurent Gbagbo, 100 percent for the Ivory Coast."

The implied slur against his rival for the presidency Alassane Ouattara -- that one of his parents is from Burkina Faso -- is not lost on Gbagbo's hardline militant fanbase.

Gbagbo owes his popularity in large part to his skill at projecting himself as an arch nationalist defending Ivory Coast from sinister "foreigners", whether they be Ouattara, former colonial master France or economic migrants from Ivory Coast's poorer, drier neighbours like Burkina Faso or Mali.

"There are two kinds of candidates," he has told several rallies. "One for Ivory Coast, and one for the foreigners."

After presiding over a decade which saw conflict, economic stagnation, crumbling infrastructure and deepening poverty, it is a sign of the ex-history professor's knack for political survival that he has persuaded so many Ivorians to embrace his fiery nationalism and overlook their more pragmatic concerns.   Continued...

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