Ivory Coast’s ruling coalition secured an overwhelming victory on Saturday in the country’s first senatorial elections, which were boycotted by the opposition who have accused the electoral commission of bias.
The Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) coalition won 50 out of the 66 seats contested, according to results published by the Independent Electoral Commission.
President Alassane Ouattara will appoint a further 33 senators.
The opposition had called for a reform of the commission and for all votes including future municipal and especially the 2020 presidential elections to be postponed.
The creation of the upper house, a provision of the new constitution enacted by referendum in late 2016, was seen by Ouattara’s opponents as a blatant power grab, while his supporters defended it as an expansion of checks and balances.
The municipal and regional councilors of the current town halls and regions as well as the deputies who constitute the electoral college took part in the indirect universal suffrage held in each of the 31 regions and 197 communes of the country.
Is a senate needed?
Ivorians disagreed about whether there was any point to the new chamber. In Ivory Coast’s powerful executive presidential system, the lower chamber was already seen as a rubber stamp.
“We need schools, we need hospitals more than we need senators,” said David Banga as he walked in an Abidjan street near a voting booth. “These elections are no use to us. Money that could be used for education, health and security is going into the pocket of 100 friends of the president.”
Since 2011, Ivory Coast has re-emerged from turmoil as one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, with a roaring 2 million tonnes a year of cocoa production and a lagoon-side commercial capital that is a billowing hub for regional investment.
But the crisis, which culminated in a short but vicious civil war when former President Laurent Gbagbo refused to concede an election, could yet reignite.
Several army mutinies have broken out in the past two years, instigated by former rebels who have been integrated only haphazardly into military ranks.
Partly as a result, Ivory Coast is deep in debt from having to pay off all those soldiers to silence their guns.