Côte d'Ivoire leaders postpone election

Côte d’Ivoire’s political leaders on Monday postponed a post-war presidential election planned for November 30 and asked electoral officials to set a new date by December 31.

Preparations for the much-delayed poll are long behind schedule and the announcement of a further postponement had been widely expected at a meeting in neighbouring Burkina Faso of senior Ivorian politicians and a regional mediator.

A complex national identification process is far from complete, as is disarmament of fighters from a 2002/03 civil war that split the world’s top cocoa grower in two.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore met in Ouagadougou with members of a consultation committee (CPC) overseeing a March 2007 peace deal he mediated.

“The CPC noted the impossibility of organising the presidential election on the official date of November 30 2008,” the group said in a joint statement.

The committee includes Côte d’Ivoire’s President, Laurent Gbagbo, former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, who is now prime minister, former president Henri Konan Bedie and northern opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

Major challenges
Bedie and Ouattara are seen as Gbagbo’s major challengers in the presidential race.

The committee asked the country’s electoral commission to set a timetable for voter identification and registration and announce it before December 31.

Bedie said administrative problems should be solved first.

“Every time we put the cart before the horse. Now we should make sure the process of identification and registration is working before we fix a date,” he told reporters in Ouagadougou.

The presidential election was originally meant to happen in October 2005, but could not because the country remained split into a rebel north and government-controlled south, separated by a buffer zone patrolled by United Nations and French peacekeepers.

Peacekeepers have dismantled the buffer zone and government and rebel forces have begun joint operations, but preparations for the election are still a long way from completion.

Acknowledging a further delay was inevitable, the UN Security Council called on Friday for the election to be held by spring. But diplomats say it is unlikely to happen before mid-2009.

The voter identification scheme is taking much longer than planned, partly because it includes issuing national identity cards to all Ivorians over 18 years old.

Gbagbo launched the process in mid-September and said it would take 45 days.
But by Sunday fewer than one million of estimated nine million potential voters had been registered, Ouattara said in Ouagadougou, quoting electoral officials.—Reuters,

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