Educated at the primary school in Daoukro, the Bingerville Higher Primary School and the Dabou Teachers’ College, before proceeding to France, where he took an LLB degree, followed by a doctorate in Economy at the University of Poitiers.
He became Côte d'Ivoire's first ambassador to the United States and Canada following independence in 1960, and from 1966 to 1977 he served in the government as Minister of Economy and Finance. While serving as Finance Minister, Bédié became the first Chairman of the IMF and World Bank's joint Development Committee,[holding that post from 1974 to 1976.He was Special Advisor to the World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation from 1978 to 1980. In 1980, Bédié was elected to the National Assembly of Côte d'Ivoire, and he was then elected as President of the National Assembly in December 1980. He was re-elected as President of the National Assembly in 1985 and 1990.
As National Assembly President, Bédié succeeded long-time President Félix Houphouët-Boigny. He announced that he was assuming the presidency on state television a few hours after Houphouët-Boigny's death on December 7 1993. A brief power struggle between Bédié and Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara ensued; Bédié was successful and Ouattara resigned as Prime Minister on December 9. Bédié was subsequently elected as President of the PDCI in April 1994.
As President, Bédié encouraged national stability but was accused of political repression and stratospheric levels of corruption. In the October 1995 presidential election, the electoral code was amended to require presidential candidates to have been born of two Ivorian parents and have resided in the country for five years prior to the election. These provisions were thought to have been aimed at Ouattara. He had resided in the United States since 1990 while serving as deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and his father was rumoured to be Burkinabe. The two main opposition parties, the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) and the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), decided to boycott the election, and Bédié won the election with 96% of the vote.