Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo declared his candidacy in the
country's long-delayed presidential elections, now scheduled for
Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's remarks were met with thunderous applause, as he filed his candidacy for the country's presidential elections, now scheduled for November 29.
Mr. Gbagbo says he is the candidate for Ivory Coast. He says he is the candidate for the men and women of Ivory Coast. He says he is the candidate to continue the fight they began and to continue the fight their parents and grandparents began in the 1940s, a fight Mr. Gbagbo says some have abandoned. He says he is the candidate for Ivory Coast and the fight is moving forward.
The presidential poll, 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.
Mr. Gbagbo said this election will take place not just to choose a president but also to usher in a new era for Ivory Coast.
Though elected to his first five-year term in 2000, President Gbagbo has led Ivory Coast for nine years through a failed coup attempt, a civil war and the country's tortuous reunification process.
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 which created a transitional, power-sharing government. Mr. Gbagbo remained president, while rebel leader Guillaume Soro took the role of prime minister.
President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in October 2005, and members of the opposition have accused him of stalling the presidential election to stay in power.
In speeches this fall, Mr. Gbagbo has insisted that there are no longer any political obstacles to the elections, which he has said must take place in 2009. Government officials and international observers have blamed technical problems related to voter identification and registration for recent delays. Anti-immigrant sentiment and issues of nationality, particularly who can run and vote in elections, were at the heart of the conflict and remain sensitive.
Last week's publication of the provisional voter list after a two-month delay was an important milestone as the country struggles to make the November 29 poll date. Yet, just six weeks before the poll, the list of more than 6.3 million names has yet to be posted in the the country's 11,000 polling stations. The list must be agreed upon by voters and political parties before ballots can be printed.
Saturday was the deadline for candidates to register for the race, and Mr. Gbagbo's name brings the list of presidential hopefuls to 20. He is the candidate for a coalition of a dozen political parties that call themselves the Presidential Majority and is seen as a frontrunner in the race. His primary challengers will be former Ivorian president Henri Konan Bedie and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.
Members of the opposition continue to insist that the presidential elections take place as planned on November 29, but observers fear there is still too much work to be done and scrambling to make the deadline could result in a flawed poll.