Côte d’Ivoire: the presidential election of October 31 postponed?

Since the announcement of the candidacy of Alassane Ouattara, outgoing head of state, for a third term, opponents of all stripes have denounced a violation of the Constitution. After multiple calls from the opposition for civil disobedience, the question of holding the election on October 31st remains uncertain. In this context, international organizations, observers or political actors are unanimous: the election cannot be held without negotiations taking place beforehand in order to offer Côte d’Ivoire free, democratic and transparent elections. The conflict prevention organization International Crisis Group does not say anything else. In its last report made public, Tuesday, September 29, ICG advocates a postponement of the presidential election.

While pre-election violence has already left some fifteen dead in August, “a short postponement of the election would offer a chance to get out of the current confrontation through a dialogue and to settle the dispute which makes the organization of a peaceful and transparent election on October 31, ”said ICG. Indeed, “the probability that this election gives rise, in the state, of a serious crisis, is high”, warns the independent organization, ten years after the post-election crisis of 2010-2011 which had caused 3,000 deaths. in this West African country.

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Calls for postponement multiply

The political situation has become tense since several opposition leaders, such as Guillaume Soro and Laurent Gbagbo, saw their candidacies rejected by the Constitutional Council, which invalidated 39 other candidacies out of the 44 which had been submitted to it. Opponents invoke article 55 of the constitution, which specifies that the president “can only be re-elected once”. On the contrary, the Constitutional Council considered that the adoption of a new fundamental law in 2016, one year after its second election, instituted a third republic ”, resetting the counters to zero and thus allowing President Ouattara to stand for re-election. African institutions, including the African Court of Human Rights, have not stood still in the face of these facts. She demanded that the former rebel leader Soro and former President Gbagbo be reinstated on the electoral roll. And, for the second, that the mention of a sentence of 20 years in prison in the so-called “robbery of the BCEAO”, the Central Bank of West African States, during the crisis be erased. post-election 2010-2011.

Regarding the electoral commission, the African Court of Human Rights has also called for it to be reformed. Without success to date.

“This tense climate has brought back to the surface unresolved fundamental questions which make the Ivorian crisis sustainable and highlight the failure of the various reconciliation processes launched since the Forum for National Reconciliation in October 2001, under the chairmanship of Gbagbo “, Develops ICG, continuing” none of these phases of reconciliation, including that carried out during the first mandate of Alassane Ouattara, made it possible to judge the war crimes committed on both sides in Côte d’Ivoire ” .

If there is a postponement, ICG recommends taking this time to discuss priority subjects, such as “the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the revision of the electoral register, the modalities of a return of political exiles and the fate of some of their supporters, still imprisoned ”.

The NGO also invites the opposition to make “realistic concessions”, such as “a rebalancing of the CIS”, rather than “outright dissolution”, and the power to authorize “the return to Côte d’Ivoire of Guillaume Soro and Laurent Gbagbo […], a gesture capable of calming the current heavy climate ”.

“If nothing changes and the ballot is held despite everything in the current conditions of mistrust, the winner would almost inevitably suffer from a lack of legitimacy. […] In any case, he would be a badly elected president “and” will inherit a country extremely difficult to govern, “warns ICG.

ICG finally pleads for the “transfer of power to a new generation”, in order to “end the interminable Ivorian crisis”, while Alassane Ouattara, 78, ex-president Henri Konan Bédié, 86, Party candidate Democratic Republic of Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), and Laurent Gbagbo, 75, have been opposed for three decades.

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Too late ?

ICG is not the only international organization to be concerned. After a week-long visit to Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, also expressed concern about the pre-electoral climate. He urged Ivorians to act “in synergy and in consultation to preserve unity and peace”.

The aim of the visit was to reaffirm the United Nations’ commitment to the organization of a “peaceful, inclusive, transparent and credible” presidential election. A wish expressed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last month after the violence in the context of demonstrations in August.

On September 14, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed her concern about the situation in Côte d’Ivoire where the electoral process had, according to her, started in “a tense political climate. and against the background of pre-existing triggers of violence linked to issues of nationality, toxic regional and ethnic divides, economic inequalities, discrimination and impunity for past crimes ”.

Will these appeals be heard? Nothing is less certain, because, on Tuesday, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) showed that it intends to continue the process by announcing the number of voters admitted to participate in the election, 7.5 million. The next step for the IEC is the distribution of voter cards. “The Independent Electoral Commission is inevitably heading towards the date of October 31, 2020, the constitutional date for the election of the President of the Republic, in strict compliance with its provisional timetable”, explained Émile Ebrottié, spokesperson for the IEC.

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