Ivory Coast’s defence minister, Hamed Bakayoko, has been named prime minister, after acting as interim prime minister since the sudden death of Amadou Gon Coulibaly on July 8, the presidency announced.
Considered a close associate of President Alassane Ouattara and a pillar of the regime, Bakayoko, 55, has had the defence portfolio since 2017, after serving as interior minister from 2011.
He has also been mayor of Abobo, one of the West African country’s most populous districts, since 2018.
“The President of the Republic has signed a decree appointing Mr. Hamed Bakayoko as prime minister,” while he will keep his defence role, according to the presidency’s statement on Thursday.
Bakayoko’s name had circulated as a potential presidential candidate before Coulibaly was nominated in March as the governing party’s candidate for presidential elections due in October.
The unexpected death of Coulibaly, who had been handpicked by Ouattara to succeed him, left his governing party scrambling to find a replacement three months ahead of the presidential election.
An emerging option for the looming election is that Ouattara could run for a third term – a choice that could spark accusations of abuse of democracy under the country’s two-term presidential limits.
Ouattara announced on Wednesday he would defer his decision to the political council of his RHDP movement in Abidjan.
He and his supporters contend that a change to the constitution in 2015 gives him the right to seek a third term.
The October 31 vote is seen as crucial for the stability of Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, which has spent Ouattara’s decade in office rebuilding from a brief civil war that followed his first election win in 2010.
Bakayoko, 55, was a founding member of the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party in 1994 and was in charge of the party’s daily newspaper, Le Patriote. It is part of the RHDP coalition.
Bakayoko also has a reputation as a populist and showman who holds rowdy campaign rallies.
He was minister of new information and communication technology in the national unity government from 2003 to 2011, during a decade of crisis in Ivory Coast.