Ivory Coast poll plan faces ‘serious delays’: UN

A senior UN official said yesterday that planning for Ivory Coast’s long-delayed presidential election was behind schedule, casting doubt on the government’s ability to organize a poll this year.
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo said last week that the election in the world’s top cocoa supplier must take place in 2009, a change of wording from previous statements insisting that the West African nation would meet a November 29 target date, Reuters reports.
But UN special envoy to Ivory Coast Young-Jin Choi said after addressing a closed-door meeting of the Security Council that the electoral process was severely behind schedule.
“There are delays, serious delays,” he told reporters.
He cited as an example problems with the provisional voter list. Ivorian officials have said that the list was completed and in the hands of Gbagbo, but Choi said it was neither ready nor published.
“When the date of November 29 was fixed in May, the publication of the provisional list was foreseen in August,” he said. “But still, as of today, we do not have that list.”
“That means that we have lost at least three months out of five months,” he added. “So you can make your own judgment.”
Presidential elections in the country also known by its French name of Cote d’Ivoire, still scarred by a 2002-03 civil war that divided it in two, have been delayed repeatedly for four years in a tortuous peace process.
Analysts consider a successful poll crucial for the West African country to reclaim its pre-civil war spot as one of region’s most vibrant economies and stable nations, adding that many of the reforms needed to improve its declining cocoa sector also hinge on the vote taking place.
Publication of unpublished list ‘welcomed’
Of the estimated 6.3 million eligible voters in the country, the data for some 2.7 million have yet to be verified, Choi said. Once those have been verified and the provisional voter list completed and published, he said, more time will be needed for appeals before a definitive list can be published.
It is not clear how long that process will take, the UN envoy said.
Although Choi made clear that the provisional list had yet to be published, the president of the Security Council, Vietnamese UN Ambassador Le Luong Minh, said in an apparent contradiction that the 15-nation panel had unanimously welcomed its publication.
“The council welcomes the completion of the identification and voter registration operations and the publication of the provisional voter list,” Le said in what he described as an agreed council statement to be read out to reporters.
“The council urges all parties in Cote d’Ivoire to unite efforts to complete remaining electoral preparations, including the publication of the final voter list and to resolve differences in the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue.”
Several Western council members said after the meeting they were not aware that their countries had agreed to welcome the publication of the unpublished provisional voter list.

Pic: President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast