The former Ivorian president Henri Konan Bédié, now an opponent, on Thursday called on his party members to unite to win the next presidential election in 2025, after the defection of some leaders in recent weeks.
This call for unity echoes the defections in recent weeks of some PDCI leaders, such as Mr. Bédié's former chief of staff, Narcisse N'Dri, who joined the ruling party.
The 88-year-old ex-president also hinted that alliances could be forged with other parties for the next elections.
"When two forces are joined, their effectiveness is double. United and determined, let's join forces," he said in front of more than a thousand delegates.
Several opposition figures were seated in the front row: leaders of the party of another former president, Laurent Gbagbo, former First Lady Simone Gbagbo, or Charles Blé Goudé..
In his speech, Henri Konan Bédié also made a harsh assessment of Côte d'Ivoire.
"Our population is suffering. Poverty is unprecedented, our education system is in decay," he said.
Mr. Bédié however assured to reach out to President Alassane Ouattara to "engage in a frank and sincere dialogue (...) for the benefit of a lasting peace".
Municipal and regional elections are to be held in September 2023. The next presidential election will take place in 2025.
Henri Konan Bédié, who governed Côte d'Ivoire from 1993 to 1999, does not rule out being the PDCI's candidate in this election. He will then be 91 years old.
Other members of his party have also expressed their willingness to enter the presidential race such as former Trade Minister Jean-Louis Billon.
On Thursday, Mr Bédié was named as the sole candidate to succeed him as PDCI president at the party's next congress in June.
The PDCI, a former single party, was in power from 1960, when Côte d'Ivoire gained independence, to 1999.
Once an ally of President Alassane Ouattara, elected in 2010, he has returned to the opposition since 2018, where he has become closer to the supporters of Laurent Gbagbo.