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Sudden Death of Ivory Coast Leader Throws Vote into Turmoil

  • President Ouattara picked Amadou Gon Coulibaly to succeed him
  • Incumbent faces choice of third-term bid or picking candidate
A man looks at local newspapers showing Amadou Gon Coulibaly in Abidjan on July 9.
A man looks at local newspapers showing Amadou Gon Coulibaly in Abidjan on July 9.Photographer: Issouf Sanogo/AFP via Getty Images
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The death of Ivory Coast’s prime minister, Amadou Gon Coulibaly, has thrown the ruling party into disarray, cast the race to succeed President Alassane Ouattara wide open and raised the prospect of a third-term bid by the incumbent.

A taciturn technocrat and one of Ouattara’s most trusted aides, Gon Coulibaly was propelled into the political spotlight in March when 78-year-old Ouattara said he would step down after two terms. The announcement ended more than a year of uncertainty over the intentions of Ouattara, who hinted in 2018 that he was considering seeking a third term to sustain economic growth in the world’s biggest cocoa producer. Gon Coulibaly died Wednesday, less than a week after returning from France where he had been treated for heart problems.

“His death will raise many questions that will need to be answered in the coming days as the elections are only four months away,” said Kobi Annan, an analyst at consultancy Songhai Advisory based in Ghana and the U.K. “Ouattara was keen to emphasize that stability would continue with his choice of Gon Coulibaly. The elections weren’t necessarily going to be a popularity contest, but more of a contest about stability, and in that respect Gon Coulibaly was the personification of that.”