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Tensions Rise in Ivory Coast Over Stalled Electoral Process

  • Anne Look

Tensions are mounting in Ivory Coast, as the dispute continues over the creation of a final voter list for the country's long-delayed presidential elections.

Youth opposition members are planning a march this week in Abidjan to call for a new date to be set for the country's much-awaited presidential poll. Progress toward the vote is at a standstill due to disputes over voter eligibility.

The proposed march has sparked concern in Ivory Coast, and observers fear a renewed bout of the protests and street violence that, in February, claimed seven lives.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo met with former president and key opposition candidate, Henri Konan Bedié, Monday in Abidjan, as part of renewed negotiations between opposition members and the presidential camp.

Tensions Rise in Ivory Coast Over Stalled Electoral Process

Tensions Rise in Ivory Coast Over Stalled Electoral Process

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro said Monday's meeting was both "necessary and useful."

Soro says different points of view came together in a way that will allow Ivory Coast to make progress in organizing elections and in reunifying the country, both issues that endanger a lasting peace for this country. He says it was a meeting of hope that will certainly not be the last and it demonstrated the desire in Ivory Coast to solve problems through peaceful dialogue.

The presidential poll is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict. It has already been pushed back six times since civil war split the country in 2002.

Issues of nationality and voter eligibility were divisive during the crisis and remain sensitive.

The most recent setback came after President Gbagbo dissolved the government and electoral commission on February 12, sparking violent protests around the country. Mr. Gbagbo had accused the electoral commission of illegally registering as many as 400,000 foreigners.

Mr. Gbagbo's political opponents accuse him of stalling elections to remain in power, though his supporters deny these allegations.

Of the more than six-million names on the provisional voter list, the eligibility of one-million voters is being disputed on grounds of nationality. Presidential supporters are calling for a complete reexamination of all voters on the list.

But Ivory Coast's main opposition coalition is demanding the preservation of advances already made in the electoral process, namely the 5.3 million voters registered on the provisional voter list and agreed upon by political actors and the U.N. on to Ivory Coast.

Opposition coalition president, Alphonse Djédjé Mady, says he is calling for respect of the consensus-based procedures already in place for contesting voter eligibility. He says the opposition will not tolerate arbitrary voter disqualifications that, he says, would deprive citizens of their nationality.

The independent electoral commission announced last week that it planned to publish a definitive voter list July 31. The opposition has called for the list to be published June 1st.