President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire has appointed his defence minister, Hamed Bakayoko, as prime minister after his predecessor died suddenly this month, the presidency said on Thursday.
The death of Amadou Gon Coulibaly threw the ruling Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la démocratie et la paix (RHDP) into disarray in the lead-up to the presidential election on 31 October, as he had been handpicked to run as the candidate to succeed Ouattara.
Gon Coulibaly, 61, had been chosen as the candidate for the ruling party in October’s presidential election after President Alassane Ouattara said he would not seek a third term in office.
He had only just returned from France, where he had received two months of heart treatment.
Bakayoko, a former radio and newspaper executive and longtime ally of Ouattara, has been considered a possible replacement for Gon Coulibaly as the presidential candidate, but the ruling party on Wednesday formally asked Ouattara to run again.
Ouattara, who had announced in March that he would step down after a decade in office, said he would take some time before making a decision.
Bakayoko will retain his position as defence minister in his new role, the statement said.
Ouattara’s supporters say he has brought economic growth, stability and a renewed standing for Côte d’Ivoire on the international stage.
But opposition politicians – and many Ivorians – say that the president has not done enough to bring the nation together, and heal the wounds of the bitter conflict that divided Côte d’Ivoire and brought him to power.
Roughly 3,000 people are thought to have died in the war sparked by candidate Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to accept he had lost the 2010 elections to Ouattara, before troops loyal to the current president arrested Gbagbo in April 2011.