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 Friday, 27 October, 2000, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Gbagbo: Veteran makes a comeback
Laurent Gbagbo
Gbagbo was only serious electoral challenger to Guei
Laurent Gbagbo, the new president of Ivory Coast, is a veteran opposition figure.

And for now he appears keen to hang on to this new and somewhat unexpected prize.

He was among the first to challenge Ivory Coast's founding President Felix Houphouet Boigny in the 1980s, as soon as the long-serving independence leader permitted multiparty politics.

More recently, Alassane Ouattara eclipsed him as the country's most noticeable opposition leader.

But Mr Ouattara was sidelined by a court ruling declaring him to be ineligible to stand for election, on the grounds of his foreign parentage.

Laurent Gbagbo
1971 Jailed for "subversive teaching"
1982 Exile in Paris after union activism
1988 Returns to Ivory Coast
1990 Election challenge
1992 Jailed after student protests
1995 Forms alliance against election
2000 Takes part in transitional government
Mr Gbagbo's former adversary, Henri Konan Bedie, was ousted in a coup by General Robert Guei late last year - and Mr Bedie's heir within the former ruling party, Emile-Constant Bombet, suffered the same fate as Mr Ouattara, being declared ineligible by the supreme court.

So in a much-reduced field, Mr Gbagbo found himself becoming the only serious challenger to the coup leader.

A former trade unionist, Mr Gbagbo, 55, has previously been associated with the left. But analysts say that since the 1980s he has taken a strongly nationalist stance.

Although he spent years in opposition to Henri Konan Bedie, Mr Gbagbo shares Mr Bedie's enthusiasm for ivoirite - the concept of pure Ivorian parentage which Mr Bédié and, latterly, General Guei, have invoked in their attempts to sideline Mr Ouattara.


Beginning his career as a university lecturer, Mr Gbagbo was jailed for two years in 1971 for "subversive" teaching.

Laurent Gbagbo
Gbagbo spent nearly 30 years in opposition
In the 1980s he was active in trade union activity among academics, and in protests against the Houphouet Boigny regime.

In 1982 he sought exile in Paris, returning six years later to attend the founding congress of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

The FPI, initially an underground movement, began campaigning openly before the 1990 elections, in which Mr Gbagbo succeeded in winning 11% of the vote and established himself as a credible opposition leader.

In 1992 he served another six months in jail, after leading demonstrations in protest against the army's intervention to crush student riots.

Short-lived alliance

The run-up to the 1995 elections saw Mr Gbagbo's FPI form an alliance with the Rally of Republicans (RDR) in boycotting the poll, on the grounds of electoral irregularities.

Laurent Gbagbo
Electoral success after a long career
Mr Bedie, groomed for power by Mr Houphouet Boigny, was elected to the presidency.

The opposition alliance came apart after Mr Ouattara became the head of the RDR.

After the December 1999 coup, both opposition parties joined the transitional government headed by General Guei - but nationalist antagonism towards Mr Ouattara left Mr Gbagbo's party as the only one left serving in government alongside the military strongmen.

His ousting of General Guei is a high point in a long and courageous career - yet his victory has been achieved through roundabout - and some would say tainted - means.

Troubled times for West Africa's most prosperous nation


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