Ivory Coast Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly died suddenly on Wednesday aged 61.
Coulibaly fell unwell during a ministerial meeting at the presidential palace in Abidjan and was rushed to a hospital where he passed away. It is currently unclear how Coulibaly died.
He had only returned to the Ivory Coast last week from France, where he had spent two months receiving medical treatment for a heart condition.
Coulibaly was picked as the candidate for the ruling Rally of the Republican (RHDP) party in the upcoming October elections after current President Alassane Ouattara had said he wouldn't stand for a third term.
His death raises the question of who might now be chosen as the party's presidential candidate.
Adama Bictogo, the RHDP executive secretary, said that at the moment, nobody was thinking about this.
'My younger brother, my son'
Coulibaly became prime minister in January 2017 after serving as secretary general of the presidency for six years.
Ouattara called Coulibaly "my younger brother, my son" in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday.
"I salute the memory of a statesman, a man of great loyalty, dedication and love for his homeland," Ouattara added in the statement.
Political set back
Coulibaly's death so close to the October elections is a setback for the ruling party, experts say.
"Their whole strategy has been forged around his person," said Ousmane Zina, a political scientist at the Ivory Coast's University of Bouake, adding the the RHDP party now needed to come up with a plan B.
Some speculate the RHDP might turn to Defense Minister Hamed Bakayoko while others suggest that Ouattara might also decide to run again now.
"Nothing can be excluded," Zina told DW, adding that is it is possible Ouattara might "return back to the electoral game."
The deadline to submit the candidate's name is July 31.
Who will contend the elections?
Ouattara has previously said he would prefer to hand over power to a new generation but that he has the right to run again under a new constitution adopted in 2016. His opponents dispute that.
"He has always been a unanimous choice within his own camp. But (running again) would be extremely dangerous, particularly vis-a-vis the opposition, which would find a common enemy," Rinaldo Depagne, International Crisis Group's West Africa project director, told Reuters news agency.
Ouattara's party has been in power since election violence ten years ago that left some 3,000 people dead after then-president Laurent Gbagbo refused to acknowledge his defeat in a run-off election.
The RHDP candidate will face off against former President Henri Konan Bedie, who declared his candidacy last month, while other politicians could join the race ahead of the filing deadline.
DW's Reliou Koubakin contributed to this article.
kh/kbd/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)