Ivory Coast’s Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly has died after falling ill at a ministerial meeting.
The 61-year-old had been chosen as the ruling party’s candidate for October’s presidential election, after Alassane Ouattara said he would not seek a third term in office.
Gon Coulibaly had only just returned from France where he had received two-months’ heart treatment.
President Ouattara said the country was in mourning.
He said Gon Coulibaly had become unwell during a weekly cabinet meeting and was taken to hospital where he later died.
His death creates huge uncertainty over the election.
Gon Coulibaly had received a heart transplant in 2012 and had travelled to Paris on May 2 for the insertion of a stent.
He returned last Thursday, saying: “I am back to take my place by the side of the president, to continue the task of developing and building our country.”
Gon Coulibaly was among the favourites to win the presidential election.
An article in Le Monde on Monday quoted one foreign observer as saying: “If Gon Coulibaly were unfit, Ouattara would have no choice but to run as a candidate because there is no plan B.
“This matter has so far remained taboo because the president has clearly shown his willingness to leave and indicated who his choice was to succeed him.”
Ouattara’s decision in March not to run stunned the country.
At the time, the BBC wrote from the main city, Abidjan, that there was praise from politicians as Ouattara broke the normal mould for the region of trying to remain in power.
Even then, it was clear that Gon Coulibaly would be backed as the successor candidate.
Ouattara’s supporters said he has brought economic growth, stability and a renewed standing for Ivory Coast on the international stage.
But opposition politicians – and many Ivorians – say that the president has not done enough to bring the nation together, and heal the wounds of the bitter conflict that divided Ivory Coast and then brought him to power.