Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara dissolved his government in a surprise move on Wednesday, citing a lack of solidarity within his coalition cabinet.
Ouattara became president in the West African state after beating incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in a 2010 run-off election with the backing of other parties. Gbagbo rejected the results, triggering a brief civil war last year.
“The president of the republic … ended the functions of the members of the government,” Amadou Gon Coulibaly, Ouattara’s secretary general, said following a cabinet meeting in the commercial capital Abidjan.
He said the decision was taken after Ouattara’s coalition partners in parliament blocked a government-proposed change to the country’s marriage law that the government said aimed to boost the rights of married women.
“That poses a problem of solidarity within the alliance, and support in parliament for the government created through this alliance,” Coulibaly said.
The dissolved government was headed by Prime Minister Jeannot Kouadio Ahoussou, a member of the PDCI party of Henri Konan Bedie, who was one of Ouattara’s rivals in the first round of the 2010 election.
Ahoussou had been named prime minister as part of a deal that saw the PDCI throw its support behind Ouattara in the run-off election against Gbagbo.
PDCI members of parliament were among those who voted against the revisions to the marriage law, which for the first time would have put men and women on equal legal footing within married couples.
Coulibaly said Ouattara was in contact with leaders among his coalition to discuss the formation of a new government, but he did not say when it would be named.
Since taking office last year, Ouattara, a former International Monetary Fund official, has overseen a much-lauded revival of the economy, with growth of 8.6 percent projected for 2012 following a contraction of 4.7 percent last year.
The West African nation, once a rare example of stability and prosperity in the often troubled region, won more than $4 billion in debt relief from the IMF and World Bank earlier this year in a major vote of confidence for Ouattara’s government.
But his administration has underperformed in a number of other significant areas.
The security services are struggling to cope with a series of regular armed attacks targeting military and infrastructure installations that began in August and have been blamed on Gbagbo’s exiled supporters.
National reconciliation between rival political camps since the war and essential security sector reform are also lagging.
Some observers saw the government, named in the wake of a decade-long crisis and largely a product of political pragmatism, as hindered by a lack of capable personnel.
“I’d be surprised if this was just because a government bill was rejected in parliament,” said Samir Gadio, an emerging markets analyst with Standard Bank. “It could be he’s consolidated his power now and can appoint a more technocratic team that is less politically driven.”
Others, however, voiced concerns over the manner and timing of the announcement, which caught both politicians and foreign diplomats largely off guard.
“It’s quite strange, and it’s quite risky…We are now in a state of emptiness,” said one Western observer, who asked not to be named. Reuters