Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara on Monday made clear he will not seek re-election in 2020 as he launched a new umbrella party that he said would help ensure continuity.
The move will turn the Houphouetist Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP), currently the ruling coalition, into a formal party.
Named in honor of the country's founding leader, the party held its constitutive assembly Monday at a luxury hotel in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan, adopting the new party's statutes unanimously after one hour of debate.
Ouattara ran unopposed as its leader.
The new party groups Ouattara's own Rally of Republicans (RDR) with the Union for Democracy and Peace (UDPCI), which has six MPs in parliament, as well as figures from other parties.
But one coalition member, the Democratic Party (PDCI), refused to go under the RHDP umbrella, having demanded that the party field a sole candidate -- from the Democrats' ranks -- in the 2020 vote.
The RDR rejected the demand, even though the PDCI supported Ouattara in his 2010 and 2015 presidential runs.
However, some PDCI stalwarts agreed to join, of whom about a dozen were named ministers during a cabinet reshuffle just last week.
Speaking to the assembly on Monday, Ouattara made an appeal to PDCI leader Henri Konan Bedie, saying: "We must stay together," recalling past victories won thanks to unity, notably during a post-election crisis in 2010-11.
Ouattara, 76, drew thunderous applause when he said: "We must work, president Bedie and I, to transfer power to a new generation in 2020."
The comments laid to rest speculation over whether Ouattara would seek re-election despite a two-term limit under the constitution.
Bedie, who is 84 and served as president of the former French colony from 1993 to 1999, has not revealed his intentions.
Source: Voice of America