The upcoming elections are so important for at least the short term development of the Ivory Coast, so I am going to draw up some possible outcomes over a 1-2 year horizon:
No major violent conflict scenarios:
-The elections are postponed for another two years.
I don’t think this is very likely as the pressure to have elections is just getting stronger with time.
-Gbagbo and FPI win the elections by cheating and excluding substantial parts of the population from voting. The opposition and the rebels are unhappy, but no major armed conflict erupts, and Gbagbo stays in power.
Looking at the recent riots occurring when Gbagbo disbanded the government and the head of the election commission, I think its hard to avoid more significant violence in this scenario. If it still happens, much would depend on the policies Gbagbo chooses to adopt once he has complete control of the government. If he chooses to push on with Ivoirité, that would likely be bad for the economy (and lots of other things too) and probably lead to violence further on.
-Gbagbo and FPI win the elections without significant cheating. Again the opposition is unhappy, but no major conflict erupts.
I might be mistaken but I just don’t think Gbagbo has the votes. Even though Gbagbo controls the television and has a big campaign/bribe budget, with RDR and PDCI united against him it’s tough for Gbagbo. Also, it will be hard for Gbagbo to get votes from the large Dioula ethnic group and groups close to it. “Hey, this guy murders our people, my cousin/relative so and so was killed back in 2002/2003/2004 or even 2010” is a pretty strong argument that doesn’t go away by some television propaganda.
-The opposition wins the election (staying united behind one presidential candidate) and actually gets the power without major violent conflict.
I think this is very unlikely. If it looks like the opposition is winning I think Gbagbo is going to try to do something to stop it, at first with peaceful means, and I guess this already being played out in the struggles to influence the electoral commission. I don’t think Gbagbo, FPI and the likes of Charles Blé Goudé are going to give up power without using violent means as a last resort.
Violent conflict scenarios:
Violent scenarios are likely to occur if Gbagbo or the opposition win the election, and the losing party does not accept the result. I see three main outcomes:
-Protracted conflict possibly splitting the country in two again.
This is the worst case scenario both from an economic and humanitarian point of view. I don’t think it’s likely though, as French or International troops are likely to step in and stop it at an early stage possibly leading to a new government that includes both FPI and the opposition and we are back to status quo. International troops can stop outright military activity, but they have a much harder time preventing civilian and militia instigated sporadic acts of violence which is a worry, but also something that keeps a bit of a check on Gbagbo as he knows he is no longer sure of having the upper hand in such a conflict as those opposing the Jeunes Patriotes seem to have armed themselves as well.
-Short conflict stopped by international forces leading to a new peace process and possibly a new power sharing government
This is possibly the most likely scenario as I see it, although I’d say it’s likelier that something else happens.
-Quick military victory by Gbagbo
This is what happened in 2000, when Robert Guei tried to stay in power by cheating the election result. That time though, the RDR was behind Gbagbo, there were no interfering international forces, and no rebel forces. This time I think there are too many things that need to go Gbagbo’s way for this to happen. One key question is how strong support and loyalty Gbagbo has among the regular army. I have always had the feeling that he relies more on his militia groups than the army, but he could still have strong support in the army and stronger then Guei had in 2000. Still, the regular army isnt that useful if the French forces take control of the country as they have shown they have the capability to do quickly.