Long-delayed elections in the world’s biggest cocoa grower Ivory Coast will go ahead on November 29 as planned, President Laurent Gbagbo said.
Elections are a key step towards restoring central government authority over a country that was divided by a brief 2002-2003 civil war, but as timetables have slipped in the past, some international organisations and diplomats have said they thought it unlikely that preparations would be complete in time, Reuters reports.
“There are no longer any political obstacles to holding the presidential election on November 29,” Gbabgo said in a televised address ahead of Ivory Coast’s Independence Day celebrations, to be held today.
“Since March 2007, the work of the Prime Minister and I has consisted of solving the political problems which formed obstacles to a return to peace,” he said.
Last month the UN special envoy to Ivory Coast said serious challenges must be overcome for the poll to be held on time.
Earlier this year, rebels controlling the northern part of the country officially handed over to civilian administrators.
Reunification and fair elections are seen as vital for encouraging investment in Ivory Coast, which was a West African economic hub until the war wrecked its reputation for stability.
The polls are also a necessary precursor for much-needed reforms of the cocoa sector, the country’s biggest export earner, which is struggling with aging plantations, farmers who complain heavy taxes are driving them out of business, and allegations of corruption at administrative level.
“The date of the presidential election is fixed for November 29,” said Gbagbo, who is thought highly likely to be a candidate.
Pic: President Lauret Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast