The quiet, behind-the-scenes preparations for Cote d’Ivoire’s next presidential election in 2020 were given a jolt this week by a man many expected would play only a supporting role in the process. In an interview published Sunday by the magazine Jeune Afrique, President Alassane Ouattara, who is nearing the end of his second term, said the West African nation’s new constitution would enable him to run twice more, in 2020 and again in 2025.
Cote d’Ivoire limits presidents to two terms, and Ouattara had previously said numerous times that he would abide by the restriction. But by claiming that the new constitution, adopted in 2016, gives him a clean slate, he seemed to be openly flirting with the kind of power grab typical of other African presidents who are more interested in their own longevity than championing open democracies.
In all likelihood, however, Ouattara’s comments are not a sign that he wants to be president-for-life. Rather, he apparently hopes he can stage-manage a succession that serves his interests.