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Winning Coalitions and Ethno-Regional Politics: The Failure of the Opposition in the 1990 and 1995 Elections in Côte d'Ivoire

Richard C Crook
African Affairs
Vol. 96, No. 383 (Apr., 1997), pp. 215-242
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/723859
Page Count: 28
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Winning Coalitions and Ethno-Regional Politics: The Failure of the Opposition in the 1990 and 1995 Elections in Côte d'Ivoire
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Abstract

Why is that former dominant or single party regimes, especially those in Africa, have generally survived and even emerged strengthened after the introduction of multi-party competitive elections? In Côte d'Ivoire since 1990 the ruling party has been able to win elections by using incumbency to present itself as the organization most likely to be capable of putting together a winning coalition. In a society segmented by a multiplicity of cultural and religious divisions and where political power is a zero-sum game, the logic of democratic representation means that no group can afford to be excluded. Yet in the 1990 and 1995 Ivorian elections the opposition attacked the ethnic character of the government and deliberately mobilized ethnic minorities, regional and religious (Islamic) sentiments. They therefore failed to escape, in electoral terms, from their extremely localized strongholds. Their attempt to mobilize around an anti-foreigner platform in 1990 rebounded in 1995 when the government itself took over their 'ultra-nationalist' stance by excluding non-Ivorians from the elections. The consequent exclusion of the opposition's favoured Presidential candidate and the failure of the opposition alliance to agree on a non-northern, non-Islamic alternative candidate led to a violent boycott and the eventual collapse of the opposition alliance.

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