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Ivory Coast PM: Nation Ready for Election Sunday

Prime Minister of Ivory Coast Guillaume Soro displays his identity card as he speaks during a rally at a stadium in Bouake on 3 Oct 2010
Prime Minister of Ivory Coast Guillaume Soro displays his identity card as he speaks during a rally at a stadium in Bouake on 3 Oct 2010

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Ivory Coast's prime minister says the country is ready for Sunday's presidential election with a special security force in place and a commission of experts waiting to supervise the electronic counting of ballots.

The prime minister says the country is on the verge of an historic date for the Ivorian people. He says campaigning ended Friday under good conditions and his government is satisfied with the conduct of the 15-day campaign.

The vote is meant to reunite the country eight years after the start of civil war. It is an election that has been repeatedly postponed since 2005, most recently just this February when President Laurent Gbagbo dismissed his government and dissolved the electoral commission because he said hundreds of thousands of people were illegally registered to vote.

President Gbagbo eventually agreed to a new voter list along with the other leading candidates in this vote - former prime minister Alassane Ouattara and former president Henri Konan Bedie.

Prime Minister Soro Saturday told reporters that years of delay have not dampened voter enthusiasm.

It has been a long, difficult route the prime minister says, but the country's leaders have taken the time needed to find consensus and make the proper preparations for these elections.

Mr. Soro is a former rebel leader who became prime minister as part of a regional peace plan. He says an 8000-strong special security force is in place for this vote which will be conducted in areas both under government control and parts of the north that are still under the command of Mr. Soro's former rebel New Forces movement.

The prime minister says Ivory Coast is an important country in the region, in Africa, and in the world at large. On Sunday, he says, voters here can show that they can hold a peaceful election that is supported by everyone.

In this run up to this vote, there has been some confusion about how ballots will be counted. Last week, the electoral commission announced that all votes would be counted by hand. The prime minister then announced they would be counted electronically by a company owned by a member of President Gbagbo's re-election campaign.

A compromise brokered by regional mediator Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore says the votes will be counted both by hand and machine with a committee of independent experts overseeing the electronic count. That committee includes technicians from the prime minister's office, the electoral commission, the Swedish technology firm Crypto AG and the United Nations observer mission here.

No matter how the votes are counted, Prime Minister Soro says nothing will undermine the ultimate authority of the electoral commission.

The prime minister says the counting of the ballots will be transparent. And the only official results will be announced by the independent electoral commission.

If none of the 14 candidates wins more than half the vote, there will be a second-round runoff between the top two finishers.

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