March 13, 2020 / 7:33 AM / 2 months ago

Ivory Coast leader backs PM Gon Coulibaly in presidential race

Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly applauds as he is named presidential candidate for Rally of the Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) during the party meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Outgoing Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Thursday named his Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly as the ruling RHDP party’s candidate for the October presidential election.

The nomination of Ouattara’s close ally had been widely expected following the president’s announcement last week that he would not run in the Oct. 31 vote, which is seen as a crucial test of the West African country’s stability.

Addressing a large gathering of the RHDP (Rassemblement des Houphouetistes pour la Democratie et la Paix), Outtara said the vast majority of the party supported Gon Coulibaly’s candidacy.

“You will be in good hands,” he said.

It is not clear whom Gon Coulibaly will run against. Ouattara’s two main rivals, Laurent Gbagbo and another former president, Henri Konan Bedie, have not yet said whether they will be candidates.

Ouattara was first elected president of Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producer, in a 2010 election that sparked a brief civil war when his predecessor, Gbagbo, refused to concede defeat. Around 3,000 people died in the violence.

Political tensions have been on the rise again in recent months after the government issued an arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, a presidential candidate and former rebel leader. His forces swept Ouattara to power in 2011 but he has since fallen out with the president.

Gon Coulibaly has served as prime minister since 2017, before which he was the head Ouattara’s presidential administration.

Reporting by Ange Aboa, Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feast.

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