Alassane Ouattara, a presidential candidate campaigning ahead of time

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Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara at the Ebimpé Olympic Stadium, north of Abidjan, on October 3, 2020.

The brand new Ebimpé Olympic Stadium is packed. This Saturday, October 3, in Abidjan, 60,000 of them came to attend the inauguration of one of the largest stadiums in Africa, the future flagship venue of the 2023 African Cup of Nations (CAN). , officially, a festive ceremony in the company of President Alassane Dramane Ouattara (nicknamed “ADO”) and a football match between Asec Mimosas and Africa Sport, the derby of the Ivorian economic capital.

In fact, the event especially allowed the Head of State, candidate for his succession in the presidential election of October 31, to afford a stadium tour and an unannounced meeting by donning his favorite cap: that of the great builder.

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In front of a white-hot crowd, the opportunity was too good not to take advantage of it. This “Architectural gem” provided “Thousands of jobs”, welcomed the presidential candidate. More precisely, this work, built and largely financed by China, employed 2,000 Ivorian workers and 600 Chinese.

“We will continue to give you jobs by the thousands and by the thousands”, he continued, before speaking of himself in the third person: “What ADO says, ADO does”. The stadium even now bears his name “At the request of the Chinese authorities and the Anyama chiefdom “, the northern city of Abidjan which has ceded its land to the state, assures one of his close associates.

Omnipresent

“We were invited and we paid nothing”, smiles Joël Tohouri, traditional chief of Anyama. The stands are overflowing with the fervor of activists, invited in large numbers to applaud the president. “As an election deadline approaches, whatever you can present that can improve your action, you do it”, assumes a communicator. Once the president leaves, the enclosure empties immediately, even as the match begins …

It is an understatement to say that the Ivorian president is playing the pre-campaign card to the full. Since September 15 and the validation by the Constitutional Council of his controversial candidacy for a third term, “ADO” has been omnipresent. Images of the head of state on tour in the regions of the country or in Abidjan punctuate the television news of national public and private channels. Flanked by a host of ministers and members of his party on every trip, Alassane Ouattara is all smiles electrifying villages, paving new roads or launching major works.

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If the campaign does not officially start until October 15, not a day goes by without Ivorians seeing or hearing their president address them. Even in the country’s plantations, where two huge cocoa processing factories have just opened, as news of an increase spreads swiftly “Historical” 21% of the price of beans per kilo (1,000 CFA francs against 825 CFA francs).

Made possible by an agreement obtained in 2019 by Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana from the world’s chocolate giants, this announcement is not trivial in a country where nearly one in five inhabitants depends on brown gold, according to the World Bank. But the timing calls out. Such a threshold had only been reached under his presidency in 2015 (1,000 CFA francs), a month before the last presidential election, and was even exceeded in 2016 (1,100 CFA francs), the year of the constitutional referendum.

A saturated media space

The ministers followed up on good economic announcements at the end of a very gloomy year: acceleration of disbursements from the SME support fund, 2021 budget forecast up 7%. “It’s fair game, we did the same in our timesmiles someone close to the opponent and candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan, prime minister under Laurent Gbagbo. We were inspired by what had done [l’ancien président Henri Konan] Bédié before us: putting the whole state machine at the service of the countryside. “

But if the Ivorian president saturates the media space, it is also in the hope of shifting the focus of political debates, hitherto frozen on his desire to return to a third term. An approach qualified as “Forfeiture” by his main rival, Mr. Bédié.

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The latter launched an appeal, on September 20, for ” civil disobedience “, a concept with blurred outlines and so far little followed. Moreover, if President Ouattara is already in the campaign, the opposition seems more withdrawn. “Too busy defining a common strategy between its great figures, it leaves the field open to the president to campaign without opponents”, observes political analyst Sylvain N’Guessan.

The opposition, which will benefit from the same media speaking time as the president from October 15, plans to fully engage in this campaign, which does not say its name on the occasion of its “Giga-meeting” scheduled for Saturday 10 October. So she too before the hour.

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