Laurent Gbagbo, 2010
Laurent Gbagbo's mistake was holding elections in the first place. The Ivory Coast president was still in power in 2010, even though his mandate had expired in 2005. But while he postponed the vote numerous times, international pressure finally forced his hand -- Gbagbo was known to complain that he was "obliged to carry out the [French] Revolution of 1789 under the scrutiny of Amnesty International."
The election went ahead in November 2010, setting the stage for a showdown between Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. Like strongmen everywhere, Gbagbo seemed shocked to find his people's undying loyalty in doubt: When the election commission declared Ouattara the winner with 54.1 percent of the vote, he simply refused to relinquish power. Many observers suspected nothing less from a candidate who used the campaign slogan: "We win or we win."
Both Gbagbo and Ouattara took the oath of office, leading to escalating violence between the two candidates' supporters that eventually devolved into civil war. "We are not going to give up," Gbagbo said, painting a portrait of an international conspiracy to oust him from power. "Our greatest duty to our country is to defend it from foreign attack."
U.N. and French forces eventually did help oust Gbagbo from power, ending the four-month civil war and eventually resulting in his extradition to the International Criminal Court. The former president, however, never abandoned his attempts to play on his people's fears of colonialism: As he put it, "I find it absolutely incredible that the life of a country is played out, in a game of poker, in foreign capitals."
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