Ivory Coast Government and Politics

State and politics

Ivory Coast Country Flag

From independence in 1960 until 1993, the Ivory Coast was ruled by Félix Houphouët-Boigny and his party, the Parti démocratique de la Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), which before 1990 was the country’s only allowed. The period thereafter has been marked by harsh political contradictions that at times degenerated into civil war.


The constitution of the Ivory Coast was adopted by a referendum in 2016. It replaced the 2010 constitution, which in turn replaced the one in force since independence in 1960. According to the constitution, the country is a democratic and secular republic with general and equal voting rights. The President holds the executive power and is elected in direct elections for five years and can be re-elected. The president appoints the prime minister, who in turn appoints the government, and is also commander-in-chief.

The president since 2010, Alassane Ouattara, was born in 1942 and his political opponents have claimed that his parents were not Ivorian citizens, something he himself denied. The new constitution removed the requirement that both the president’s parents be born in the country. It is enough now that one of the parents is Ivorian and that the candidate himself is a citizen only in Ivory Coast. The upper age limit of 75 years was also removed. Another change was that a vice presidential candidate should be appointed before the elections.

The legislative power is exercised by Parliament, which has 255 members, elected for five years. According to the new constitution, an upper house, the Senate, was to be established and so happened in March 2018, when the first Senate elections were held. Of the 99 members of the Senate, 66 are appointed by regional and municipal assemblies and the remainder by the president. The term of office is five years.


During the tumultuous years in the early 2000s, Front populaire ivoirien (FPI), led by Laurent Gbagbo, took over the role of the country’s dominant party. The CPI claims to be socialist but for a distinctly nationalist policy. Alassane Ouattara and his party Rassemblement des houphouëtistes pour la demokratie et la paix (RHDP) hold a strong position among the predominantly Muslim population in the northern parts of Ivory Coast as well as his old party Rassemblement des républicains (RDR). The guerrilla groups that took up arms against the government in 2002 formed themselves politically under the name of Forces Nouvelles (UN).

After the 2000 parliamentary elections, the FPI received 96 seats while the PDCI received 94 seats. In practice, the constitution was disregarded by Laurent Gbagbo, who was proclaimed president in 2000 after an election that, according to the outside world, did not reflect the views of the population. By referring to insufficient preparation, with the reluctant approval of the international community, he was able to postpone the next election for five years.

Through the peace agreement that ended the civil war in 2003 and a new agreement in 2007, the Ivory Coast was to be ruled by a unifying government until such time as general elections could be held. According to the agreement, some of the president’s powers would also be transferred to the prime minister, but uncertainties about this contributed to the problems in government cooperation.

In the 2010 presidential election, Ouattara was declared victorious by the electoral commission but Gbagbo refused to resign. The country found itself having two rival presidents, two governments and two sets of ambassadors. An almost united world recognized Ouattara as legal head of state and received the ambassadors he appointed. Regular fighting between Gbagbo’s and Ouattara’s troops broke out in the winter of 2011. Gbagbo was finally captured in April 2011 by Oauttara’s forces, backed by France and the UN. Both sides were charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the fighting and Gbagbo was brought to the International Criminal Court in The Hague in November 2011. In December of that year, the first parliamentary elections were held for eleven years. Since Gbagbo’s party FPI decided to boycott the election and asked voters to do the same, turnout was low, 36 percent. The RDR became by far the largest party with 127 seats; the second largest was PDCI with 77 seats.

The 2015 presidential election was also disputed and in many places violent outbursts erupted. Ouattara was allowed to stand despite parts of the opposition protesting, pointing out that he has a partly foreign background, a claim that Ouattara himself disputes. The president was re-elected with 84 percent of the vote against only 9 percent for the FPI candidate, former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan. The election result was 55 percent. In connection with the election, Amnesty International accused the regime of harassing the opposition and arbitrarily arresting government opponents.

After a new constitution was approved by Parliament in October 2016, a referendum was held on the issue. 93 percent of the voters supported the proposal, but turnout was only 42 percent. The December 2016 parliamentary election attracted even fewer to the polling stations; less than 35 percent of the electorate participated. Ouattara’s RHDP received 167 out of 255 seats and 76 independent candidates were selected. No other party received more than six seats and the FPI received only three. Of the MPs, only 29 (11 per cent) were women. See also History.


The legal system is based on French law in combination with local customary law. The judicial system consists mainly of the Supreme Court of Abidjan, the appellate courts and the courts of the Court of First Instance. The death penalty was abolished in 2000.

Human Rights

The relatively stable albeit authoritarian Ivory Coast during the 20th century came during the early 2000s to find itself in political turbulence and economic instability. Laurent Gbagbo took power in 2000 under couped forms. This was followed by military revolts and several civil wars, in which both sides of the conflict were guilty of crimes against humanity (see History).

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the situation in the country has been marked by abuses against civilians, arbitrary detention, harassment by roadblocks and acts of violence by members of defense and security forces. Although torture, corporal punishment and other inhuman treatment are prohibited under the Constitution, both government forces and rebel groups have subjected people who have been forced to flee their homes, due to internal conflicts, to torture and sexual abuse.

However, improvements have been noted regarding freedom of expression and printing in the country. According to Reporters Without Borders, Ivory Coast has climbed in the 2015 Press Freedom Index from place 118 2010 to place 86.

Women’s influence in society increased during the 2000s thanks to many active women’s organizations despite the extensive gender-related violence. Genital mutilation, which is prohibited by law, is widespread and reports show that nearly half of the country’s women have been subjected to the abuse (2010). Trafficking in non-Ivorian women is also particularly extensive.

As a result of the protracted conflicts, the children have been hit hard. They have been recruited as child soldiers and subjected to sexual abuse as well as outright murders, and the number of orphans is extensive. Child labor is a common occurrence and many children end up in vulnerable situations on plantations and as a labor force in households where violence and sexual abuse occur. Impunity is widespread for perpetrators.

Homosexuality is not prohibited by law, but LGBT people also do not enjoy any special protection from the state and they are stigmatized in society.

In Ivorian legislation, it is stipulated that people with disabilities may not be abandoned, however, the group is discriminated against in the labor market and many are forced to live on the street and beg for their survival.

Heads of State


1960-93 Félix Houphouët-Boigny
1993-99 Henri Konan Bédié
1999-2000 Robert Guéi
2000-2010 Laurent Gbagbo
2010- Alassane Ouattara

Ivory Coast Head of Government

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