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Ivory Coast Election Could Be Delayed Again

By Anne Look
16 September 2009

Ivory Coast has missed the deadline for publishing provisional voter lists for the country's long-delayed presidential elections, now scheduled for November.

Ivory Coast's election commission confirmed that it has missed the September 15 deadline for publishing voter lists, a setback that could postpone presidential polls already delayed many times since 2005.

The vote, now slated for November 29, is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict in the once stable West African nation that is the world's top cocoa producer.

Though the lists were originally scheduled to be published in late August, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro says that five to 10 percent of the registration data for the country's some 6.5 million identified voters had yet been processed.

He says technicians processing voter data are confirming the validity of voter applications submitted, in particular eliminating people registered in more than one district. This work, he says, is integral to ensuring the success of the election.

Soro says technicians are working to ensure that the voter list will be standardized, correct and free from all double registrations. He says the quality and legitimacy of the electoral list will influence the overall atmosphere of the elections and is therefore the priority. He says he has insisted that all state institutions work toward that goal.

Voter registration issues, particularly issues of nationality and voter eligibility, have prompted Ivory Coast to postpone the election several times since current President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in October 2005.

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. The country has since missed deadlines for presidential elections set by the peace accords of 2007 and late 2008. Thousands were killed in the conflict, and the country, though now at peace, remains tense and fractured.

Asked when the provisional voter list will be ready, Soro said he asked the technicians to do their best but could not give a date. He reiterated that it is a question of good work not deadlines.

He says the most important thing is the quality of the work being done and that is the government's responsibility.

Though election officials are still working toward a November 29 poll, observers fear there is still too much work to be done.

The United Nations has said that additional delays of days, weeks or months would not be problem. In a Reuters interview last week, the U.N. Special Envoy to the country, Young-Jin Choi, encouraged Ivory Coast to focus on all the progress being made, instead of being "fixated with a specific date."

Once published, the provisional lists will have to be agreed upon by voters and political parties before ballots are printed.

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