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Ivory Coast Electoral Commission to Publish Expanded Provisional Voter List

Director of Ivory Coast's Prime Minister Soro's Cabinet Paul Koffi (L) and president of Ivory Coast's Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) Youssouf Bakayoko (R) present the new provisional electoral list ahead of national elections in Abidjan, 12 Jul 20

Ivory Coast's electoral commission will publish a new provisional voter list Thursday, as the country inches toward long-delayed presidential elections.

Ivory Coast's electoral commission says it has expanded the provisional voter list from 5.3 million to almost 5.8 million people to include 490,000 voters who were too young to vote in the last elections, held in 2000.

The head of the Independent Electoral Commission, Youssouf Bakayoko, says this list will be the provisional voter list, replacing all previous versions. He says the voter contestation period will be re-opened. From there, he says the electoral commission will move toward the definitive voter list and, once that list is published, will announce a poll date..

The eligibility of more than one-million voters is still being disputed, many on grounds of nationality. The electoral commission says the contestation process should take two weeks.

Voter registration issues, particularly issues of nationality and voter eligibility, have prompted Ivory Coast to push back the election six times since civil war split the country in half in 2002.

The most recent setback came after President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the government and electoral commission in February, sparking violent protests around the country that killed seven people and wounded dozens. Mr. Gbagbo accused the former electoral commission of illegally registering as many as 400,000 foreigners.

President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in October 2005. His political opponents have accused him of stalling elections to remain in power.

The opposition continues to call for a definitive voter list to be published by the end of July and for presidential elections to be held by October.

But the publication of a definitive voter list is not the only obstacle remaining in Ivory Coast. The disarmament of the country's former rebel factions and pro-government militias, set to be completed before the vote, is also behind schedule.