Tidjane Thiam, the ex-CEO of Credit Suisse and a frontrunner to lead Ivory Coast’s primary opposition party ahead of the 2025 elections, gathered a massive following during his first rally since declaring his candidacy.
Addressing over 2,000 party leaders and activists in Yamoussoukro, the capital, Thiam urged unity within the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI) in their quest to regain power. Emphasizing his banking and engineering background, he outlined a vision focusing on decentralization and empowering the party’s activist base.
At 61, Thiam is a relatively young figure in Ivory Coast’s political landscape, returning after more than two decades abroad, including his tenure at Credit Suisse from 2015 to 2020, which drew criticism from his opponents.
“He spent those 20 years working! He has both cultures, it’s an asset. He is the only one who can bring together Europe and Africa,” remarked Thiam supporter Guissa Doudou.
Thiam’s political career was interrupted in 1999 by a coup that ousted President Henri Konan Bedie. The PDCI, once the country’s sole legal party, has been out of power since then and is seeking new leadership following Bedie’s passing in August at the age of 89.
Thiam, also the great-nephew of Ivory Coast’s founding president and PDCI’s founder Felix Houphouet-Boigny, is seen as a potential catalyst for rejuvenating the party and making a bid for the 2025 presidential election.
“Our political class must be renewed,” stressed Lazare Ahizi, a PDCI delegate from the southern Grand-Lahou region. “Thiam is a real reference point and our best chance of returning to power.”
Approximately 50 of the PDCI’s 63 lawmakers have thrown their support behind Thiam in the upcoming leadership contest vote scheduled for December 16. His primary rival, Jean-Marc Yace, 62, serves as the mayor of a commune in Abidjan, the country’s economic hub.