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Côte d’Ivoire - 2016 National Assembly

Cote d’Ivoire is a democratic republic ruled by a freely elected government. The country held a presidential election in October 2015, in which President Alassane Ouattara was re-elected by a significant majority. International and domestic observers judged the election to be free and fair.

Côte d’Ivoire has a unicameral National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) with 255 seats. In the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale), 255 members are elected by first-past-the-post voting in 205 single and multi-member constituencies to serve four-year terms. On October 30, 2016, citizens of Côte d’Ivoire passed via referendum a new constitution. The new constitution will switch Côte d’Ivoire to a bicameral system, with an indirectly elected Senate (Sénat) and directly elected National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale). Until the Senate (Sénat) is formalized, the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) will serve as the only legislative body.

The Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace / Rassemblement des Houphouétistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix (RHDP) alliance was established in 2005, consisting of the Rally of the Republicans, The Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, the Union for Democracy and Peace in Côte d’Ivoire, the Movement of the Forces of the Future, and the Union for Côte D’Ivoire.

Ivory Coast went to the polls on 18 December 2016 as President Alassane Ouattara sought to strengthen his parliamentary majority. Ouattara's coalition already controls 85 percent of the seats, and was expected to hold on to power despite criticism that the ruling RHDP party runs the government like a monarchy.

With Ouattara at the helm, the country has made solid economic progress but his administration has come under fire for its political record, including eschewing a national reconciliation for the country's 2011 violence that saw 3,000 people killed. Only 6 million Ivorians are registered to vote in a country of 24 million, and they will cast their ballots for 255 legislators in a system where the winner takes all for his or her district.

Opposition politicians loyal to ousted leader Laurent Gbagbo, Outtara's one-time ally turned rival, hoped to gain some ground after largely boycotting politics since 2011. The Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) dominated politics for over a decade after the former military junta was toppled in 2000 and Gbagbo installed as president.

The most serious human rights problems were security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings and the abuse of detainees and prisoners, and the government’s inability to enforce the rule of law. The Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire (FACI), formerly known as the Republican Forces of Cote d’Ivoire, and the gendarmerie were responsible for arbitrary arrests and detentions, including at the informal detention centers they operated. The government seldom took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, and impunity was a serious problem.

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and sometimes life threatening, and lengthy pretrial detention was a problem. The judiciary was inefficient and lacked independence. The government restricted freedom of press and assembly. Corruption in government was pervasive. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) faced insecure and difficult living conditions. Statelessness remained extensive. Discrimination, sexual assault, and violence against women and children occurred. Societal discrimination against ethnic groups, persons with disabilities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, and victims of HIV/AIDS were problems.

Dozos (traditional hunters) assumed an informal security role in many communities, although they had no legal authority to arrest or detain. The government discouraged the Dozos, whom most residents feared, from assuming security roles.

The independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views. Newspapers aligned politically with the opposition frequently published inflammatory editorials against the government or fabricated stories to defame political opponents.

The law provides for freedom of assembly, but the government did not always respect this right. Numerous opposition political groups reported denials of their requests to hold political meetings and alleged inconsistent standards for granting public assembly permissions. Police use of excessive force to disperse demonstrators resulted in injuries. While the law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or religious lines, ethnicity was often a key factor in party membership.

In legislative elections held on 18 December 2016, the ruling government coalition won 66 percent of the 255 National Assembly seats. The main opposition party, which boycotted the 2011 legislative elections, participated and won seats. The elections were considered peaceful, inclusive, and transparent. In the October 2015 presidential election, President Alassane Ouattara was re-elected by a significant majority. International and domestic observers judged this election to be free and fair.

On 30 October 2016, the government conducted a referendum on a new constitution to replace the postmilitary coup constitution of 2000. The process for drafting the new constitution – and to a certain extent the content itself – was contentious. Opposition parties and some local and international organizations claimed the process was neither inclusive nor transparent and criticized the new text for strengthening the role of the executive branch. Despite an opposition boycott, the referendum passed overwhelmingly in a peaceful process that was inclusive and generally transparent.

The law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or religious lines. Ethnicity, however, was often a key factor in party membership. Opposition leaders reported denials of their requests to hold political meetings and alleged inconsistent standards for granting public assembly permits. For example, on 03 October 2016, the prefect of the district of Abidjan refused a permit for the planned October 5 opposition sit-in at the national assembly, where the president was scheduled to present the new constitution to deputies. The opposition postponed its protest until the following Saturday, but opposition leader, Mamadou Koulibaly, defied the ban and was arrested; Koulibaly was released two hours later.

There are no laws limiting the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did so. Cultural and traditional beliefs, however, limited the role of women. Of 253 national assembly members, 26 were women; of 197 mayors, 11 were women; of 31 regional council presidents, one was a woman. A few women held more prominent positions, including that of first vice president of the national assembly, nine of 36 cabinet ministers, and several chairs of important commissions.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2021 11:51:01 ZULU