Abidjan ruling party sweeps to victory

Mark Huband in Abidjan

The Guardian, 27 November 1990

RULING party candidates were swept back into power in the Ivory Coast yesterday as results in the first multi-party national assembly election came in.

With all votes counted, the ruling Democratic Party (PDCI) of President Felix Houphouët-Boigny held on to 163 of the 175 seats it had automatically held under the one-party system which was scrapped in May.

The main opposition party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), gained nine seats. The FPI leader, Laurent Gbagbo, won 65.03 per cent in his native village of Ouragahio in the heart of the cocoa belt.

Mr Gbagbo was in political exile in France between 1982 and 1989. He returned with the hope of forcing the government to accept a multi-party system, but his demands were rejected until this year.

In the smart Cocody suburb of Abidjan, the Workers’ Party (PIT) candidate won the constituency whose voters include President Houphouët-Boigny. The PIT leader, Francis Wodie, beat off six other candidates to take the seat.

Clashes between PDCI and opposition activists were reported on Sunday night in the Abidjan suburbs. Opposition supporters were said to be angry that the government allowed African foreigners living in the country to vote.

The PDCI had a 40-seat advantage over the opposition even before polling started. Even with 19 opposition parties, there were not enough candidates to go around the entire country, and in 40 constituencies only PDCI candidates were standing.

The opposition failure to gain more ground, when the government is barely getting to grips with the economic crisis caused by unstable world commodity prices, stems from the longevity of the 85-year-old president.

Many are eager for change, but are critical of the oppsition’s refusal to acknowldege the achievements of the 30 years since independence ruled throughout by President Houphouët-Boigny.


There is as yet no substantial feeling that multi-party democracy is the way forward. Voting has taken place along tribal lines, though this has not led to the tribal conflict predicted by members of the ruling party.

Until 1980, each constituencyhad only one candidate. That year different members of the PDCI party were allowed to stand against each other for the first time. In May of this year, after strikes and demonstrations, the government was forced to accept a multi-party system.

On October 31 President Houphouët-Boigny won a new five-year term after beating the FPI leader in the country’s first multiparty presidential election.



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