Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara appointed Hamed Bakayoko as prime minister, replacing Amadou Gon Coulibaly who died in office earlier this month.
The appointment was announced in a decree issued Thursday in Abidjan, the commercial hub of the world’s top cocoa-producing nation.
Bakayoko, the current defense minister, stood in for Gon Coulibaly for two months after he was evacuated to France on May 2 for medical treatment. Gon Coulibaly died after collapsing at a cabinet meeting July 8, less than a week after returning to Abidjan.
A 55-year-old former publisher who lacks his predecessor’s technocratic background, Bakayoko draws his political support from mainly working-class voters. He’s faced media allegations of being involved in drug-trafficking. He denies any wrongdoing.
The appointment comes a day after the ruling Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace called on Ouattara to seek a third term in elections scheduled for Oct. 31. Gon Coulibaly had been the preferred candidate of Ouattara, who is expected to decide next month whether he’ll accept the nomination.
Sources close to Ouattara have said he is seriously considering running even though it is unclear if he’d be legally allowed to do so. The constitution bars leaders from serving more than two terms, but the ruling party says a 2016 review allows him to seek office again. A bid for a third term would also go against a commitment by Ouattara, 78, to hand over power to a younger crop of leaders.
If Ouattara, who’s overseen an economy that’s grown 7% or more every year since 2012, decides to run, he will face the main opposition’s 86-year-old leader and a former Ouattara ally, Henri Konan Bedie.