Ivory Coast to miss voter list deadline: sources

Ivory Coast will miss a September 15 deadline to publish provisional voter lists by about two weeks, officials said, the latest sign a November 29 presidential election in the top cocoa grower will be delayed.
Ivory Coast’s election commission would not comment on the deadline but said over 95 % of voter lists had been processed and that technicians needed “some time” to complete their work and ensure voter lists were complete.
Publication of the lists, initially due in August, is a crucial step in a troubled election process meant to end a crisis sparked by a 2002-2003 civil war a conflict fuelled by questions of nationality which the lists seek to clarify.
“It will not be possible to publish the lists tomorrow,” an official with the Ivorian National Institute for Statistics (INS), which is collating with lists, told Reuters yesterday.
“We think that it will take at least another ten working days to complete the operation if there are no more disturbances,” added the official, asking not to be named.
The INS is working with French firm SAGEM Security to collate and analyse data gathered during the identification process, which began last year and has been dogged by problems, adding to delays in polls first meant to take place in 2005.
The official said there was a shortage of staff processing the data due to a lack of money to pay employees. Breakdowns in communications systems had added to their problems, he said.
“We are expecting an announcement on a delay,” an Abidjan-based diplomat said when asked about the September 15 deadline for publishing provisional voter lists.
“It will more likely be the end of September. It isn’t just the processing of the data. They need to print it and post it in the 11 000 polling stations. It is quite a logistical exercise.”
Once published, the lists must be agreed on by voters and political parties before a final voter list is drawn up and an estimated 6 million election cards are printed and handed out.
“Need some time.”
The question of who is eligible to vote is particularly thorny in Ivory Coast.
Northerners have been caught up in a row over people from neighbouring countries who were long welcomed to work on cocoa farms but are now no longer accepted by local communities.
Northern New Forces (FN) rebels still control much of the north of the country, despite vows to disarm and hand authority back to President Laurent Gbagbo’s government at least two months before an election is held.
After countless election deadlines have been missed and with accusations that all sides are profiting from the status quo, there is mounting pressure for polls to be held.
But the pressures are matched by concerns that poorly prepared polls would be disputed by the losers, who might complain that people were either unfairly excluded or included on lists, something which is likely to exacerbate tensions.
“We want a credible election list,” said Yacouba Bamba, the election commission’s deputy spokesman.
“That is why the technicians are working on the remaining 5 percent. They need some time. When they are ready, they will post the complete list,” Bamba said.

Pic: President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast