(AFP) – Aug 30, 2008
YAMOUSSOUKRO, Ivory Coast (AFP) — Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was named Saturday as his party's candidate for the country's long-delayed November 30 presidential elections, an official said.
"Today, August 30, 2008, we have named Laurent Gbagbo as our candidate," Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) chairman Pascal Affi N'Guessan said at the close of his party's conference in the political capital Yamoussoukro.
"We need a leader, a guide, someone to make our dreams happen tomorrow. It's a mission we have entrusted him with," he said.
Gbagbo, who did not attend the convention, was chosen unopposed by more than 3,000 delegates and was due to formally announce his candidacy in October, N'Guessan added.
The president -- who has been in office for eight years -- has so far refused to make any pronouncement on his plans.
Opposition candidates who have already declared their hand include former president Henri Konan Bedie and ex-prime minister Alassane Outtara.
The elections have been repeatedly put back since the end of Gbagbo's first term in October 2005.
The country, the world's top cocoa grower and a former star French colony, was sliced in two after a foiled coup bid against Gbagbo in September 2002.
Under a peace deal signed in March 2007 between President Gbagbo and former New Forces (FN) rebel leader Guillaume Soro, the parties agreed to reunify the country and hold elections.
A new government was installed earlier this year with Gbagbo sharing power with Soro, now serving as prime minister.
Under the deal, Soro's rebel soldiers were either to be demobilised or integrated into the regular army. Many former rebel soldiers have complained, however, that the process is taking too long.
The disarmament and integration of the estimated 36,000 former rebel fighters is due to be completed before the election in November.
A voter identification process to issue digital identity cards to all eligible voters among the 19 million population was also agreed.
Before the start of the sensitive process, Gbagbo said there were about 300,000 eligible Ivorian voters, while the former rebel movement insisted there were as many as three million.
There are estimates that the number of voters in the presidential election could be as high as eight million people compared with the 5.4 million voters on the list for 2000 used at the last elections.
In July, the United Nations Security Council approved a French-drafted resolution extending the mandate of UN and French peacekeepers in order to support the holding of the elections.
An 8,000-strong UN force and 1,800 French troops supporting it are now due to remain until January 31, 2009.
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