(AFP) – Nov 10, 2008
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AFP) — Ivory Coast's long-awaited presidential elections, set for November 30, were delayed again on Monday due to difficulties over voter identification and security.
The country's main political parties, meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, agreed that "it is impossible to organise the presidential elections on the date of November 30," adding that they had instructed the electoral commission to submit a new timetable for the vote, before December 31.
Ivory Coast, the former star French colony which is still the world's biggest cocoa exporter, has put off the elections several times since Gbagbo's mandate ran out in October 2005.
Participants in the talks included Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, former rebel chief and current Prime Minister Guillaume Soro, and opposition leaders Henri Konan Bedie, Gbagbo's predecessor as president, and former premier Alassane Ouattara.
The meeting was being presided over by Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore, who is guarantor of the Ouagadougou peace agreement of March 2007 which ended the Ivory Coast crisis.
In Abidjan, many observers had been saying for weeks that the elections would have to be delayed again but the official announcement was still met with exasperation.
"Like many Ivorians I am angry. They are not even able to tell us today when the elections will be held," Patrick N'Gouan, president of the Ivory Coast Lidho human rights watchdog told AFP.
Compaore said Monday that he hoped voter registration would be completed before the start of 2009.
"The important thing is not to set a date without taking into account the principal issue which is voter registration... We hope that we will be able to finish that between now and the start of the new year," Compaore said.
"Only when we have a good visibility will we be able to set a credible date for the presidential elections," Ouattara, also a presidential candidate, said in Ouagadougou.
Monday's meeting came after the UN Security Council expressed impatience with Ivory Coast over its sluggish preparations for the elections.
It urged Friday the country's political parties to make sure the vote is held no later than mid-2009.
In 2002 Ivory Coast was plunged into crisis after Soro's rebel New Forces tried to oust Gbagbo. Their attempt failed and the country was effectively cut in half with the rebels controlling the north, while UN and French peacekeepers have held the line between the two sides.
The 2007 Ouagadougou peace agreements saw Soro become prime minister in a power-sharing government and set a timetable for the presidential election.
Since the official identification process started on September 15, there has been a string of delays in registering up to nine million potential voters.
At the moment the campaign has only taken off in Abidjan where 774 identification bureaux have opened, only a fraction of the 11,000 bureaux planned across the West African nation.
The identification process is needed to update the electoral lists from 2000, the last time presidential elections were held in the country.
Ouattara told journalists that he was satisfied with the work being done for voter identification.
"The president of the electoral commission said that in Abidjan as of yesterday (Sunday) almost a million people were identified," he said.
His rival candidate Bedie stressed the importance of the voter registration.
"The elections are delayed because we put the cart before the horse. Now we have to make sure the identification process goes well, to be able to set a date," he said.
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