UN endorses Ivory Coast’s provisional voter list

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Ivory Coast’s publication of a provisional voter list, which he described as a key step in organizing the country’s long-delayed presidential election.
“(Ban) believes that with this important development, the Ivorian parties and institutions have made significant progress towards the establishment of a consensual and transparent voters list,” the UN press office said in a statement.
Presidential elections in the world’s top cocoa producer, still scarred by a 2002-03 civil war that divided it in two, have been delayed five times since 2005 in a tortuous peace process.
The United States called on Ivory Coast yesterday to hold the presidential election as soon as possible, saying it was disappointed a vote originally set for later this month had been delayed.
“It is imperative that all parties take every measure to ensure that elections are held without further delay,” State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly said in a statement.
Ban’s statement echoed that, saying the West African country must now “prepare the final voters list and move forward in determining a new election date as soon as possible.”
Officials in Ivory Coast confirmed this month the presidential vote originally set for this Sunday would be pushed back, the latest in a series of delays over rebel disarmament and identifying voters.
UN endorses provisional voter list
Analysts consider a successful poll crucial for Ivory Coast to reclaim its pre-civil war spot as one of the region’s most vibrant economies and stable nations, and say many of the reforms needed to improve its declining cocoa sector also hinge on the vote taking place.
The UN statement said Ban’s special representative, Young-Jin Choi, had endorsed Ivory Coast’s provisional voters’ list as well as the process followed in compiling it.
Choi has said a final list of voters for the presidential election would not be ready until the end of the year.
Once the final lists are agreed upon, voter cards will have to be printed and handed out before an election can take place.
UN officials and independent analysts have cited early 2010 as the earliest possible time to stage an election that meets all the technical and legal requirements.
UN officials said previously the eligibility of about a million voters had yet to be clarified, a dispute that harks back to the divisive issue of nationality that was at the root of the country’s civil war and subsequent crisis.
President Laurent Gbagbo is expected to face challenges from Henri Konan Bedie, a former president, and Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister whose support base is in the rebel-dominated north of the country.
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 Lauret Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast