The following post was contributed by Mario Giuseppe Varrenti. Mario holds an MA in International Relations and Diplomacy Studies from the College of Europe. Mario will soon take up a traineeship post in DG DEVCO, electoral assistance in the European Commission.
More than two months since the second round of elections in Cote d’Ivoire, the international community faces a big dilemma. Technically flawless elections delivered a result which was not accepted by the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Three options are now in sight: protracted deadlock, military intervention and power-sharing.
Election assistance experts have convened that the Ivorian elections were run according to international standards, in a technically impeccabile way. There was no rigging and an independent electoral commission delivered a timely and clear official result, which was welcomed by the international community.
However, the country faces deadlock. The Constitutional Court, controlled by Mr Gbagbo’s men, overruled the outcome of the elections and annulled the results. The Constitutional Court acted against the electoral law and so “legally” there is a clear answer to the dilemma, Mr Ouattara is the winner. However, “politically” the issue remains a splitting headache.
Three scenarios are in sight and none of them looks promising. The first is protracted deadlock, the current status quo, with Mr Gbagbo remaining in power and Mr Ouattara being slowly abandoned to his destiny. In this case Mr Gbagbo may become a international pariah, with restrictive measures being imposed upon him and his cronies. In such a scenario, renewed internal conflict cannot be ruled out.
A second scenario is international military intervention. This is a highly unrealistic option whose costs may easily dwarf any benefits. Although we have seen the military card branded to date, we do not know whether it is backed up by serious political will or if it is simply seen as a way to put further pressure on Mr Gbagbo. This political hot potato has been passed on to the sub-regional organisation, ECOWAS, and has casued considerable consternation in the domestic politics and public opinion of its member states.
The third scenario is a power-sharing agreement. Power-sharing is without doubt becoming a panacea, a sort of international norm, especially after the cases of Kenya and Zimbabwe. Power-sharing is indeed part of the solution, it can bring an end to violence and create convergence upon constitutional reform (whether successfully like in Kenya or unsuccessfully like in Zimbabwe). On the other hand, power-sharing is also a big part of the problem as it creates an incentive for candidates not to accept the result of elections, “If I can’t have it all, better to have half than to have nothing”.
If power-sharing will be the solution to the Ivorian crisis (which will be difficult if Mr Ouattara’s only support comes from abroad), it will be a slap in the face for the international community and its efforts to assist Ivorian elections.
As for Mr Ouattara, it is likely that the only presidential aspiration he can realistically have at the moment is a presidential suite in the Golf Hotel of Abidjan.