PENPIX-Ivory Coast's three main presidential candidates
By Tim Cocks
EBOUE, Ivory Coast, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast opposition presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara would push for a better share of cocoa profits for farmers if elected in a poll set for Oct. 31, he told Reuters this week [ID:nLDE6901NG].
Following are the three main candidates in Ivory Coast's presidential election, set for Oct. 31:
PRESIDENT LAURENT GBAGBO
In power since 2000, Gbagbo's mandate ran out in 2005 but a presidential election has been delayed ever since.
Gbagbo, 65, was accused of creating obstacles to the electoral process, a charge he denied. Last month, he signed a decree validating the final electoral list, suggesting he is ready to go to the ballot box.
Originally associated with the left, he has emerged as an arch nationalist and his supporters are accused of xenophobic rhetoric towards mostly Muslim migrants from neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, sentiments largely behind the 2002-03 civil war.
He put Ivory Coast on a collision course with its former colonial master in 2004, when the Ivorian military killed nine French peacekeepers in a bombing and France retaliated by destroying the Ivorian air force. His supporters attacked French expatriates, forcing 8,000 to be evacuated.
Analysts say his attempts to boost his popularity in rebel northern and western zones have had mixed results.
He has pledged to double cocoa production from its current annual 1.2 million tonnes. His government plans to overhaul the cocoa sector if he is elected, in line with debt relief conditions from the IMF and World Bank.
A former prime minister under the country's first post-independence president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, Ouattara, 68, gained a reputation for good economic management and later joined the IMF, rising to deputy head.
He is from the mainly Muslim north of Ivory Coast and was excluded from running for alleged Burkinabe origins in the 2000 poll after coup leader Robert Guei tightened the rules to bar anyone whose parents are not both Ivorian.
In the past, Gbagbo has not shied away from insinuating that Ouattara is Burkinabe and has no right to run. Because of ties with France, he has been painted as a French stooge.
The rebels have backed his cause, though he has always denied having any part in the rebellion himself.
His election pledges include reforming the cocoa sector to give half the international price to farmers, broadly in line with Gbagbo's government plans, with a simplified administration. He has pledged to overhaul healthcare and education with a big programme of rural clinic and school building.
HENRI KONAN BEDIE
President from 1993 and deposed in a coup in 1999, he is the oldest of the three main presidential candidates. His opposition Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) accuses Gbagbo of dragging his feet over holding the election.
Bedie, 76, is seen as the successor to long-time president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, who died in 1993 after presiding over decades of agricultural export-led economic growth.
He has pledged to restore Ivory Coast to the prosperity of that golden age.
He is widely blamed for promoting the nationalistic idea of 'Ivorite', designed to exclude recent migrants. Resentment at the notion fuelled the 2002 rebellion. (Editing by Daniel Magnowski)
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