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Ivory Coast announced that it will release provisional voter lists Thursday for the country's long-delayed presidential elections, now scheduled for November.
With just two months before the presidential poll, the Ivorian government has announced that the provisional voter list is ready and will be submitted to the Independent Electoral Commission, government leaders and political parties on Thursday.
The vote, which has been postponed several times since 2005, is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict in the once stable West African nation. When the country missed a September 15 deadline for publishing the voter list, many feared that setback would once again delay the vote.
But in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly Friday, Ivorian president Laurent Gbabgo confirmed that the elections would take place as planned on November 29.
Mr. Gbagbo says that thanks to the support of the international community, and in particular thanks to the work and desire for peace of his fellow Ivorians, the electoral process has entered an irreversible phase. He says there is no longer any political obstacle to holding the elections.
Financial problems and voter registration issues, particularly issues of nationality and voter eligibility, have already prompted Ivory Coast to push back the election several times since current President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in October 2005.
Civil war cut the nation in half in 2002, after rebels attempting to overthrow President Gbagbo took control of the northern part of the country. Thousands were killed in the conflict, and the country, though now at peace, remains tense and fractured. The country has since missed deadlines for presidential elections set by the peace accords of 2007 and late 2008 that appointed rebel leader Guillaume Soro as prime minister in a power-sharing agreement.
The provisional voter list was originally scheduled for publication in late August, but processing registration data for the country's some 6.5 million identified voters proved time-consuming. Prime Minister Soro has insisted, though, that confirming the validity of voter applications is integral in ensuring the success of the election.
Former Ivorian President Henri Konan Bédié, who is a candidate in the upcoming election, says the vote can still take place on November 29.
Bédié says although they can't exactly get back the time lost as a result of these technical delays, other steps in the process can be accelerated to ensure that the vote happens on schedule.
Once published, the provisional lists will have to be agreed upon by all political parties before ballots are printed. Bédié says that though this is an essential step, the length of this review period should be limited. Allowing it to drag on, as other parts of the process already have, would just provide another excuse to push back the poll date.
Yet, the publication of the voter list, though a crucial step, is not the only obstacle remaining. The disarmament of the country's former rebel factions, set to be completed two months before the vote, is also reported to be behind schedule.
Though election officials are still working toward a November 29 poll, observers fear there is still too much work to be done and scrambling to make the deadline could result in a flawed vote.