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Ivorian Government Willingness to Open Electoral Process Questioned

The mediator of the Ivory Coast conflict, South African president Thabo Mbeki, has sent a letter to the country's combatants suggesting that the proposed October elections be open to all parties. Ivory Coast rebels welcome the letter. Their main leader, northern opposition politician Alassane Ouattara, has been banned from running for president because he does not meet strict requirements establishing that his family is originally from Ivory Coast.

In the meantime, there are two meetings today regarding the peace process. In Bouake, Ivory Coast, rebels and government representatives are meeting to discuss demobilization and disarmament. And in Pretoria, South Africa, representatives of the warring parties are discussing the eligibility requirements for those who run for president.

Henri Boshoff is a military analyst with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. He told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo has said he takes President Mbeki’s letter as merely a proposal. In the past, he has said a referendum would be needed to change Article 35 of the country’s constitution, which establishes nationality as a qualification for presidential candidates. Opponents of the requirement want the parliament to change the rules instead. On the other hand, a government spokesman is quoted in the press as saying that it's the Ivorian Constitutional Council, which is made up of judges, that should determine who is eligible to run for office. In the past, the council has banned Alassane Ouattara from running.

Analyst Henri Boshoff also says a decision on a timetable for disarming at today’s meeting in Bouake should give a clear indication of the progress being made to implement the peace agreement signed between all parties.