In Côte d’Ivoire, the puzzle of monitoring the ballot

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An activist shows a ballot in favor of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, which also includes opposition candidates, during a rally in Anyama, on the outskirts of Abidjan, on October 28, 2020.

Mariam hesitated for a long time before going to withdraw her voter card. On the eve of an election, the final preparations for which were marked by violence in several localities in south-eastern Ivory Coast, the Abidjanaise made her choice. “I did not go to get my card, I will not vote. The opposition told us not to go. And I am afraid that I will be attacked if I do not respect the instructions ”, expresses, moved, the one who assures that on October 31, day of the first round of the presidential election, she will lock herself at home.

How many will they, like Mariam, stay at home out of fear or militancy? No one can really predict it. The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) nonetheless revealed in a statement on Monday, October 26, that a little more than 3 million people (and even 3.5 million according to the latest data obtained by The World Africa) of the 7.5 million registered, had recovered their card to fulfill their civic duty.

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“It’s a very good number”, welcomes Antoine Adou, special advisor to the president of the CEI. “Especially since those who have not done so will be able to withdraw them on the day of the vote”, he recalls.

But for others, this figure should be taken with a grain of salt and the emphasis of the electoral body should be qualified. “Is the withdrawal of the voter card worth voting?” “, asks an Ivorian observer, member of an international organization, recalling that this document “Also serves as a supporting document in everyday life as well as for the next elections”.

Over 35,000 security forces deployed

The issue of card withdrawal and therefore voting participation has become a particularly sensitive subject since the Ivorian opposition announced the “Boycott of the poll” and called the Ivorians to ” civil disobedience “. In recent weeks, opposition supporters have responded to the call of their politicians and burned or stolen nearly 235,000 voter cards, or about 3% of the total.

At the same time, withdrawal centers were ransacked in the southern half of the country. “You draw a line of Danané [extrême-ouest] in Koun Fao [extrême-est] : below this line, we had problems everywhere ”, notes a source who participated in the process of deploying electoral materials. Quickly, “All the destroyed cards were reproduced and sent to the polling places concerned”, assures Antoine Adou of the CEI.

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And since Sunday, October 25, the electoral material “Sensitive” has been routed to secure sites. Today, more than 60% of the departments have already received the material, without any incidents being reported. “It will only be deployed at the polling stations at the last moment to avoid rampages”, indicates a knowledgeable source.

To ensure the security of the ballot and the some 22,000 polling stations spread over Ivorian territory – and 246 abroad – more than 35,000 representatives of the security forces will be deployed. In addition to the police and gendarmerie services used to law enforcement operations, paramilitary forces attached to customs and the Ministry of Water and Forests will strengthen the imposing security system planned for Saturday. However, there will be no members of the police in front of each office.

Operation “Elephant trumpeting”

“We will be especially mobilized in Agni and Bété countries, that is to say in the south-east [région la plus touchée par les récentes violences et considérée comme un bastion de l’opposition] and Gagnoa [ville de l’ouest favorable à l’ancien président Laurent Gbagbo] , specifies a close to the government.

The deployment of the security operation called “Elephant trumpeting” will answer the “Current risk mapping”, confirms Arthur Banga, teacher-researcher at Félix-Houphouët-Boigny University in Abidjan. For this security analyst, it will be “Show the muscles” from the outset in sensitive areas “To avoid using them afterwards”.

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In this tense context, nearly 10,000 Ivorian and international observers will be present in the polling stations to report potential anomalies, irregularities and incidents that could tarnish the credibility of the ballot, which will take place from 8 am to 6 pm.

A few hundred members of international and regional institutions – African Union, Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union, International Organization of La Francophonie, embassies and The Carter Center – will come to support the many members of society. Ivorian civilians trained for the occasion.

Reject “the findings of the observers”

The Ivorian NGO Indigo, which advocates dialogue and peace actions, will be the most represented with nearly 1,000 observers. Citizens “Without a partisan chapel but passionate about politics” living in hamlets or localities of polling stations in order to “Better control the dynamics and highlight the main trends”, explains Arsène Konan, program coordinator at Indigo.

About a hundred other observers from the NGO are responsible for analyzing the socio-political environment over a period of two years to better understand the impact of this election on the lives of Ivorians, before and after the election.

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Despite his commitment, Arsène Konan remains lucid about the usefulness and effectiveness of election observation: “We don’t pretend to change anything. It is a question of capitalizing on all the elements that we will observe, improving our analysis and making recommendations that can later be used to draw lessons from the vote. “ For its part, to strengthen the credibility of the ballot, the CEI has planned to publish on its site, five days after the announcement of the national results, the detail office by office.

The opposition continues to say that it is hardly convinced by all these precautions. During a press conference, the opponent Pascal Affi N’Guessan declared to reject “In advance the conclusions that such observers will draw from their mission, which makes no sense.” And add in an interview to World Africa : “Ouattara does not have enough soldiers to deploy them in all the polling stations. In at least two-thirds of the localities, there will be no offices open on Saturday, October 31. “

A prediction that does not make the government tremble. “Anyway, an election is valid at the ratio, sweeps a member of the Ouattara camp. If a few offices are burnt down or closed, it won’t interfere with the bottom line. “

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