Ivorian voter list ready by end of 2009: UN

A final list of voters for Ivory Coast’s election, meant to take place on November 29, will not be ready until the end of the year, the United Nations said yesterday, pointing to the scale of the latest of many delays.
Election organisers have not yet officially postponed the vote in the world’s biggest cocoa producer, but the UN has only just begun ferrying provisional lists to be checked at polling stations.
One million voters must also still prove their eligibility, underscoring deep tensions over nationality despite efforts to end a seven-year crisis.
The poll, which is meant to seal a peace and reunification process after a 2002-2003 war, has already been delayed five times since 2005. A successful vote should allow for key reforms of the cocoa sector and a jump in investment.
Lists with the names of 5.3 million registered voters were handed over yesterday to the UN peacekeeping mission for distribution to nearly 11 000 polling stations, where they must be displayed and checked by voters and officials.
“The moment (they are put up), everyone agrees that it will take 38 days to process (the lists),” said Young-Jin Choi, the UN’s special representative in Ivory Coast.
“So, 38 days after they are posted, we will have the final list that is to say a final list by the end of the year.”
Even once the final lists are agreed upon, voter cards will have to be printed and handed out before a poll can take place.
Every stage of Ivory Coast’s election process has been delayed so far and analysts warn that the other hurdle, dealing with 1 million people who were registered as potential voters but have not yet proved their eligibility, is vast.
Robert Beugre Mambe, head of the election commission, said yesterday that a second list would be drawn up of the estimated 1 million names. Those on the second list will have to prove their eligibility to election officials in order to vote.
The issue has sparked controversy, with President Laurent Gbagbo’s camp saying vetting is needed to prevent foreigners from voting. His opponents complain that the process risks marginalising some groups of Ivorians.
The rebels who seized and still hold the north cited exclusion among their justifications for launching the 2002-2003 war. Identity and nationality continue to play a central role in the crisis and analysts warn the issue is playing into the hands of hardliners on all sides.
Although cocoa production has largely held up since the war, last year’s crop was the worst in five years and analysts warn that neglect and mismanagement during the crisis will provoke a dramatic decline unless reforms are instigated.

Pic: President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast