Over millions of citizens of Ivory Coast on Saturday will cast ballots in a high-stakes election that, until recently, was seen by many as an opportunity to aid usher in a new generation of leaders.
Instead, because of a series of both expected and unexpected events, voters have seen the rerun of an old – and increasingly tense – political drama.
The four candidates, officially accepted by the Constitutional Council are President Alassane Ouattara, 78; former President Henri Konan Bedie, 86; former Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, 67; and independent candidate Kouadio Konan Bertin, 51.
Again, the key characters in the polls are all familiar names, part of the continuous making-and-breaking of alliances that has shaped politics in the country for decades.
Six months ago, things seemed different.
In the month of March, Ouattara ended months of speculation regarding whether he would join the league of “third termers” by announcing that Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly was his chosen successor.
However on July 8, Coulibaly passed away unpredictably. His death plunged the country into uncertainty, leading to mounting speculation over who would replace him as the flagbearer for the governing Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (RDHP) party.
One month later, Ouattara officially announced that he would accept his party’s nomination and run for a controversial third term, describing the decision as a “response to the call of citizens” and a “sacrifice”.
The president says constitutional amendments introduced in 2016 effectively reset the countdown clock on the two-term limit and allow him to run again.