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February 22, 2010

Regional Mediator Says Ivory Coast Vote in April or May

by Scott Stearns

The regional mediator for Ivory Coast's political crisis says there will be presidential elections in less than three months.

A written statement from the office of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore says Ivory Coast's rival political factions have agreed on a new electoral calendar with the goal of having the first round of presidential elections in late April or early May.

Prospects of having the vote next month collapsed 11 days ago when President Laurent Gbagbo dismissed the government and the independent electoral commission. It is the seventh time Ivory Coast's presidential election has been postponed since President Gbagbo's mandate expired in 2005.

Prime Minister Guillaume Soro is still expected to announce a new government after the two leading opposition candidates for president - former president Henri Konan Bedie and former prime minister Alassane Ouattara - agreed to a new coalition cabinet.

President Compaore says the country's electoral commission should be reconstituted later this week, allowing for work to resume on a contentious electoral list. President Gbagbo sacked the commission because he said hundreds of people were illegally allowed to register.

His political opponents say the president was trying to indefinitely delay the vote. They are calling on supporters to continue public protests until the electoral commission is restored. At least seven people have been killed in protests across the country in the last week.

This vote is meant to reunite the country after its brief 2002-2003 civil war divided Ivory Coast between north and south.

President Compaore says all sides should respect the Ouagadougou Accord which ended that fighting and made former rebel leader Soro prime minister.