A high-level group overseeing Côte d’Ivoire’s peace process has called on the electoral commission to meet with political leaders and civil society to decide a new date for presidential elections.
The group, led by Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, said after a meeting on 10 November that the polls could not be held end of November as planned due "technical and financial" complications.
According to the committee to oversee the Ouagadougou peace agreement – the Cadre Permanent de Concertation or CPC – the independent electoral commission must come up with a new election timetable by 31 December 2008.
"The date of the elections mostly depends on the registration and identification process," Compaoré told reporters at the close of the meeting in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou. "But...the process has faced many difficulties and constraints on technical and financial aspects, so it has been delayed."
Voter registration, also after a long delay, began earlier this year but the exercise has been marred by violent attacks at registration sites. A sound voter identification and registration process is seen as indispensable to stability. The 2002 rebellion, which had widespread support at the time in the north, stemmed largely from northerners' complaint that they have been treated as foreigners and excluded from the political process.
Joining Compaoré in the 10 November meeting were Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, rebel-turned-prime minister Guillaume Soro, former President Henri Konan Bédié and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.
Gbagbo was elected in 2000 when he ran against the country’s first-ever coup leader, Robert Guei. A rebellion in 2002 split the country in two and threw off the election calendar, under which Gbagbo’s mandate would have ended in 2005. As part of peace efforts that year the UN extended his mandate for one year, but since then several peace deals and election timetables have come and gone.
People in Côte d’Ivoire said they were not surprised by the announcement.
“I’m not surprised. The postponement of the election was inevitable, especially since the identification process is not complete,” teacher Marcelline Akaffou told IRIN. "We are used to this...[D]efinitive peace will certainly be a long time in coming."
Others were sceptical of politicians' role. “I think politicians are not yet ready to go to elections," Salimata Traoré, a shopkeeper in Abidjan, told IRIN. "Everyone continues to follow his own interests. And those who know they won’t win are doing all they can to avoid elections from being held."
She continued, “I am disappointed by this announcement…It is becoming harder and harder to tolerate this situation. Times are hard, and families are struggling to put enough food in their mouths.”
But many say it is best to take time to ensure proper elections. Student Kouadio Gervai told IRIN: “The conditions [are] not right for holding elections. If the point is to hold free and transparent elections, we need to take more time…The country is beginning its reunification process. Even if there are still difficulties in some areas, there is hope for peace.”