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Former Ivorian PM Declares Candidacy for President

By Anne Look
13 October 2009

Former Ivorian prime minister Alassane Dramane Ouattara declared his candidacy for the country's long-delayed presidential elections, now scheduled for November.

Filing his candidacy at the country's Independent Electoral Commission, Mr. Ouattara, more commonly known as Ado, pledged to run a campaign of peace and reconciliation and to work to bring Ivory Coast out of crisis.

Ouattara's name brings the list of presidential candidates to 12. He and former Ivorian president Henri Konan Bedie are the two primary challengers to President Laurent Gbabgo who declared his candidacy last week.

The November 29 vote has been postponed several times since 2005. It is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to years of internal conflict in the once stable West African nation that is the world's top cocoa producer.

Civil war cut Ivory Coast in half in 2002, after rebels attempting to overthrow President Gbagbo took control of the northern part of the country.

Ivory Coast has a large immigrant population. Questions of nationality, particularly for residents in the northern part of the country, were divisive during the crisis and remain sensitive.

Ouattara, who is from northern Ivory Coast, was barred from elections in 1995 and 2000 because of questions about his nationality.

A new electoral code in 1994 and then a new constitution, passed in 2000, required presidential hopefuls to prove that both of their parents were born in Ivory Coast. It was rumored that Ouattara's mother came from Burkina Faso.

Issues surrounding his disqualification from the 2000 election contributed to the civil war. Thousands were killed in the conflict, and Ivory Coast, though now at peace, remains tense and fractured.

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

The provisional voter list was published last week after a two-month delay. The 6.3-million name list must be agreed upon by voters and political parties. But with just 48 days before the poll, the provisional list has yet to be posted in the 11,000 polling stations so voters can check for their names.

Both Ouattara and Bedie continue to insist the Ivory Coast 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.

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