Mediator sees chance of Ivory Coast “turning point”

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The African leader seeking to broker an end to Ivory Coast’s six-year political gridlock has hailed a new November 29 election date as a real chance for the world’s top cocoa grower to emerge from the stalemate.
Last week’s announcement of the date met with scepticism by analysts who warned it could slip like others before it, citing what they see a lack of political will by incumbent Ivorian leaders benefiting from the political uncertainty, Reuters notes.
But Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore said before a new round of mediation talks that President Laurent Gbagbo’s government was committed to holding a poll aimed at reuniting a country whose north has been in the hands of rebels since a 2002-03 civil war.
“(It) marks a decisive turning point in the process and shows the firm will of the government to ensure republican institutions function properly,” Compaore told reporters yesterday.
He called on Ivorian parties to stick closely to a timetable for election preparations, including early completion of voter identification, a much-delayed process cited as being behind previous postponements.
Polls are seen as a necessary precursor for reforms of the cocoa sector, which provides 40 percent of global supply but is struggling with ageing plantations, lagging interest amongst farmers and allegations of corrupt administrators.
The mediation talks in the Burkinabe capital were the fifth such round since Compaore secured the 2007 Ouagadougou Accord which made Guillaume Soro, a former rebel, prime minister.