Ivorian President and former rebels say election to be delayed

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and leaders of the country’s former rebel factions say the presidential election, will once again be delayed.
During a visit last Thursday to Yamoussoukro, President Laurent Gbagbo predicted the country’s long-delayed presidential elections would once again be pushed back, citing ongoing delays in the publication of the provisional voter list, VOA reports.
The New Forces, the country’s former rebel faction that continues to hold the northern part of the country, also said those delays have made a November 29 poll date impossible.

It is not a surprising revelation. Recent delays have prompted observers to fear that a November 29 poll date would be unrealistic and that scrambling to make that deadline would result in a flawed vote.

The poll, which has been postponed several times since 2005, is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict in the once stable West African nation.

Ivory Coast’s electoral commission delivered the provisional voter list to the president in early October, nearly two months late. The list contains more than 6.3-million voters. Before ballots can be printed, the list must be posted and agreed upon by voters and political parties during a 30-day review period.

Now just 27 days away from the scheduled poll, the list has yet to be posted in the country’s 11,000 polling stations. President Gbagbo and former rebel leaders have said this delay makes a November 29 poll impossible.

President Gbagbo, who has insisted the vote take place in 2009, said a mid-December vote could be possible if these delays can be overcome.

But only Ivory Coast’s Independent Electoral Commission can officially push back the presidential elections.

The commission announced last Sunday that it would be posting two lists within the week. The first list will contain the names of 4.3-million voters whose nationality has already been verified. The second list contains the names of about 1.9-million voters whose nationality is still unconfirmed.

Voter registration issues, particularly issues of nationality and voter eligibility, have prompted Ivory Coast to push back the election several times since President Gbagbo’s mandate ran out in October 2005.

Civil war cut the nation in half in 2002, after rebels attempting to overthrow President Gbagbo took control of the northern part of the country. Thousands were killed in the conflict, and the country, though now at peace, remains tense and fractured.

Ivory Coast has since missed deadlines for presidential elections set by 2007 and 2008 peace accords that created a transitional, power-sharing government.

Issues of nationality were divisive during the crisis and remain sensitive. As Ivory Coast moves toward the election, government officials have emphasized that confirming the validity of voter registrations is essential to ensuring the success of the election.  

Pic: President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast