The party of Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo named his one-time prime minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan as its candidate for the October presidential vote, ending speculation Gbagbo might return from abroad to stand.
The election is seen as the biggest test yet of the tenuous stability achieved since a civil war in 2010-11 in which around 3,000 people were killed, sparked by Gbagbo’s refusal to step down from office after a disputed election.
“I am a winning candidate and we will win,” N’Guessan told members of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party ahead of their vote for his candidacy. “I’m a man of peace and reconciliation.”
Gbagbo, who lives in Belgium after being acquitted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court last year, had been called on by the FPI to stand in the election, but the Ivorian authorities have not issued travel documents allowing him to return.
The presidential race was upset earlier last month by the sudden death of Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, who was the preferred successor of President Alassane Ouattara.
Ouattara has since been asked by the ruling RHDP party to stand again, defying opponents who say he does not have the constitutional right to a third term.
Ouattara has not yet formally accepted the candidacy, but is widely expected to do so.
N’Guessan will also run against Henri Konan Bedie, who was president from 1993-1999 and is the confirmed candidate of one of Ivory Coast’s largest parties, the PDCI.
Bedie said on Wednesday he had agreed with Gbagbo that their parties would back the other’s candidate in the event of a second round run-off against Ouattara.
The first round of polling will be held on Oct. 31.