UN council urges swift election in Ivory Coast


The UN Security Council urged Ivory Coast to reschedule its long-delayed presidential election as soon as possible and to ensure that the vote in the world’s top cocoa producer is free and fair.

Mediators aiming to end the political stalemate proposed last week that Ivory Coast hold its presidential election in late February or early March of next year.

The 15-nation Security Council issued a unanimous statement saying it “urges the Ivorian actors to address the remaining tasks and to hold open, free, fair and transparent presidential elections at the earliest possible date.”

The French-drafted statement also called on the West African country to “allow equitable access to public media” and reiterated the council’s readiness to impose sanctions against “those who would block the progress of the electoral process.”

Last month’s missed election date was the latest in a long line of deadlines for a poll that was supposed to take place in 2005 to resolve divisions that fuelled a 2002/03 civil war that split the country in two.

Critics accuse President Laurent Gbagbo of delaying the election, something he has denied. Gbagbo’s mandate expired in 2005 with the country split between the government-held south and the north held by rebels who had tried to oust him in 2002.

Authorities cite technical problems including a dispute over whether 1 million residents are Ivorian and eligible to vote.

The timetable proposed by the mediators includes publishing a final voter list in January 2010 followed by the distribution of voter cards and the start of campaigning in February.

Analysts say delays to the poll have prolonged a deadlock dating back to the war that has prevented reforms to the cocoa industry and unnerved potential investors in west Africa’s former economic hub.

Last week former colonial power France urged Ivory Coast in a statement to organize the poll as soon as possible.