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Following the March 2007 agreement with the New Forces, the election was planned to be held in the first quarter of 2008.[2] On August 6, 2007, President Laurent Gbagbo said it would be possible, with goodwill and determination, to hold the election as early as December 2007.[8][9] This was greeted with widespread skepticism by observers and the opposition, who said that the preparations for elections would be incomplete at such an early stage.[9]

It was announced on September 12, 2007 that the process of voter identification and registration would begin on September 25,[10] and if it went well it was expected to be completed by the end of 2007.[11] On September 13, the President of the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Robert Mambé, said that the presidential election should be held, "at the latest", ten months after the end of the identification process, around October 2008,[10] and that the parliamentary election should be held 45 days after the presidential election.[11] On September 18, Gbagbo again expressed his desire to see the elections held quickly and said that he was opposed to the "remote dates" being suggested.[12]

On November 27, 2007, Gbagbo and Soro reached an agreement in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, that the election would be held by the end of June 2008; the electoral commission was to propose the specific date of the election.[13] Gbagbo reiterated on December 19 that the election would be held no later than the end of June 2008, and he said that he would visit all the regions held by the New Forces by March 2008 and would then make a report to the Constitutional Council, which would in turn approve the holding of the election.[14]

French Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner said on January 27, 2008 that the election might be delayed slightly past the end of June deadline due to technical requirements, particularly the need to update voter lists.[15]

By March 2008, the common view among observers was that it would be impossible to hold the election as early as June. Although no leading political figures had yet expressed that view, in March Gbagbo referred to the importance of considering actual conditions and said that it would not mean "death" if the election was not held in June.[16]

On April 14, Government Spokesman Amadou Koné announced that the presidential election would be held on November 30, 2008, thus delaying it by five months. According to Koné, the date was chosen by the CEI, which had presented a report to the government. Koné said that the parliamentary election would be held on a different date.[17] Gbagbo expressed enthusiasm on the occasion, describing it as "a great day for Côte d'Ivoire". According to Soro's spokesman Sindou Méité, a "broad consensus" had been reached by Soro and other leading political figures regarding the date. The PDCI and RDR welcomed the announcement of a date, although they remained cautious; the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire also welcomed it. On the same day, Gbagbo signed a decree outlining the terms of cooperation between the National Institute of Statistics and the French company Sagem, the latter of which is tasked with surveying the population so that voter lists can be updated and new voter cards can be created.[18]

By the first half of September 2008, there was widespread speculation that the election could be again delayed to early 2009.[19] Gbagbo said in mid-September that a delay to December 15 would be needed unless the period allowed for challenges to the electoral register was truncated;[20][21] however, CEI President Robert Mambé said on September 18 that such a delay was "out of the question" for the time being, noting that the CEI considered meeting the November 30 date to be "a moral obligation".[22]

At a New Forces meeting on October 11, the group recommended that the election be postponed to 2009, citing concerns about security and inadequate progress in identity card distribution.[23] Speaking on October 29, Prime Minister Soro suggested the possibility of a delay, saying that the CEI had been asked "to work out a reliable time-frame to give us an idea of a probable definitive date for the election".[24]

On November 7, the UN Security Council called for the election to be held by mid-2009 at the latest. At a meeting of the Ivorian political parties in Ouagadougou on November 10, 2008, it was decided, as expected, that the November 30 date could not be met and a delay was necessary. The three main candidates—President Gbagbo, Alassane Ouattara, and Henri Konan Bédié—attended the meeting, as did Prime Minister Soro. A new date for the election was not announced, and the parties asked the CEI to submit an updated timetable no later than December 31. Blaise Compaoré, the President of Burkina Faso, said that the progress of voter registration had to be considered in setting any new date, while expressing his hope that registration would be finished before January 1, 2009. Ouattara said that a date should only be set when "good visibility" existed, while Bédié said that they had "put the cart before the horse" and that a new date should not be set until it was clear that the identification process was successful.[25]

In early 2009, Innocent Anaky, the President of the Movement of the Forces of the Future (MFA), said that he did not believe that the election would actually be held in 2009.[26]

Soro announced on May 14, 2009, that the election would be held on November 29, 2009. In a statement on May 15, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on "all Ivorian parties to respect this date and to work together to complete the remaining tasks related to the electoral process."[27]

The first round of the election had been delayed six times in the last five years.[28] [edit] Voter identification and registration

The public hearings of the identification process were intended for people born in Côte d'Ivoire who did not yet have identification papers. The hearings were launched on September 25, 2007, and were to be held first in Ouragahio and Ferkessédougou, respectively the home regions of Gbagbo and Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.[29] Gbagbo asserted that there were about 300,000 eligible voters who could be identified through the process, but the New Forces said that there were up to three million eligible voters.[30] The French company Sagem was designated as the technical operator of the electoral register in November 2007.[16]

The second meeting of the Cadre permanent de concertation (CPC), which is responsible for the implementation of the peace agreement, was concluded in Ouagadougou on January 24, 2008. At this meeting, it was decided to facilitate voter registration for those individuals receiving supplementary birth certificates through the identification process, to allow parties to begin campaigning in February, and to publish the voter list from the 2000 presidential election on the Internet.[31]

In an assessment of the public identification hearings on April 10, 2008, the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI) said that 400,000 back-up birth certificates had been issued over the course of six months and that 7,337 public hearings had been held in 11 administrative areas.[32]

1,500 of the necessary 6,000 cases of material for voter registration cards arrived in Côte d'Ivoire on August 10, 2008, according to Sagem; the remaining material was expected to arrive within one week.[33]

The Ministry of Justice announced on August 19 that 50 voter identification teams would be sent from August 27 to September 12 to areas of the country that were inadequately covered in the previous identification process.[34]

The electoral census began on September 15 and was planned to continue for 30 to 45 days. The purpose of the census was to update the electoral register and provide citizens with new identity cards; all citizens above the age of 16 were to be included in the census,[20][21] although only those above age 18 were to receive voter cards.[21] The initial phase of the census was to occur in three southern towns—Grand-Bassam, Dabou, and Gagnoa, as well as three northern towns—Ferkessédougou, Bouna, and Man—and Yamoussoukro, the capital. Once the electoral register was completed, there was to be a one-month period during which the register could be challenged; however, Gbagbo said shortly before the beginning of the census that he wanted this period for challenges to be reduced to 15 days. According to Gbagbo, if this reduction was not accepted, it would be necessary to delay the election from November 30 to December 15.[20][21]

11,000 centers for identification were intended to be opened around the country; by November 10, when the election was delayed to 2009, 774 centers had opened in Abidjan, but in the rest of the country the process had stalled.[25]

There were 5.4 million registered voters at the time of the 2000 presidential election; it was expected that the number of registered voters for the new election could be up to eight million.[30] However, in early December 2008 only 2 million voters had registered.[35]

Identification was expected to be completed by February 2009.[36] [edit] Candidates

In an interview with Agence France Presse on May 20, 2007, Henri Konan Bédié, who was President from 1993 to 1999, said that he would be the presidential candidate of his party, the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire - African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA), in the 2008 election. He said that his party was impatient for the election to be held, and also said that the opposition would not back a single candidate in the first round of the election.[37] Bédié addressed a rally in Dabou on September 22, 2007, in which he declared the need for a "shock treatment" to return the country to normal,[38][39] promised to restore the economy,[39] and strongly criticized Gbagbo.[40]

Alassane Ouattara, who was Prime Minister from 1990 to 1993, was designated as the presidential candidate of the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) at a congress of his party held on February 1–3, 2008. At the congress, he invited the New Forces, from whom he had previously distanced himself, to team up with the RDR for the election.[41]

The RDR and the PDCI-RDA are both members of the Rally of Houphouëtistes, and while Ouattara and Bédié will run separately in the first round of the presidential election, each has agreed to support the other if only one of them makes it into a potential second round.[41]

While Ouattara and Bédié have said that full implementation of the peace agreement, including total disarmament of the New Forces, is not necessary prior to the holding of the election, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, the President of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), Gbagbo's party, has said that disarmament must be completed before the election.[42]

Soro, as Prime Minister, is barred from standing as a candidate by the peace agreement. Describing himself as an "arbiter of the electoral process", Soro said in a March 2008 interview with Jeune Afrique that the New Forces would not back any candidate and its members could vote for whomever they wished. Rumors have suggested that Soro and Gbagbo have secretly agreed on an arrangement whereby Soro would support Gbagbo and, in exchange, Gbagbo would back Soro in the subsequent presidential election; Soro derided these rumors as "gossip".[43]

On April 26, 2008, the Republican Union for Democracy (URD), which is part of the National Congress for Resistance and Democracy (CNRD), announced that it was backing Gbagbo's candidacy.[44][dead link]

Speaking in Soubré on April 27, Bédié urged "peace-loving Ivorian citizens and the international community to ensure that elections ... are fair, transparent, clean and open".[45]

Gbagbo was designated as the presidential candidate of the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) on August 30, 2008 at the end of a party congress in Yamoussoukro, in which over 3,000 delegates participated. He was the only candidate for the FPI nomination at the congress, which he did not personally attend. According to FPI President N'Guessan, Gbagbo intended to wait until October to make his formal announcement that he was running for re-election.[30]

By September 2008, Gbagbo and his wife Simone, as well as Bédié, had toured parts of the country in preparation for the election, but Ouattara was, by comparison, viewed as inactive following his nomination in February. The RDR announced on September 11 that Ouattara would present his programme at a convention in Yamoussoukro on October 4.[19]

The Assembly for Peace, Equity and Progress (RPP) announced on 6 September 2009 it would support Gbagbo.[46] [edit] Controversy [edit] Disarmament and security

On December 22, 2007, a disarmament process planned to take place over the course of three months began with government soldiers and former rebels[who?] withdrawing from their positions near what had been the buffer zone; the forces of the two sides respectively went to barracks in Yamoussoukro and Bouaké. Gbagbo and Soro were present at Tiebissou to mark the event; Gbagbo said that, as a result, the front lines of the conflict no longer existed, and Soro said that it "effectively, concretely marks the beginning of disarmament".[47] Government forces completed their withdrawal from the front lines on January 24, 2008.[48]

After meeting with Burkinabe President Blaise Compaoré, the mediator of the Ivorian crisis, in Ouagadougou, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Ivorians to "move forward in the process of disarmament, reunification of the country and full restoration of state authority". Although he noted that progress had been made, Ban said that he and Compaoré agreed that there was much more to do. The New Forces have blamed the stalling of the process on lack of money.[49]

On April 29, Ouattara called for the public identification hearings, which were due to end in May, to be extended by one or two months, saying that many people had not yet been able to participate.[32]

The process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of the New Forces, which had been launched on December 22, 2007, began in Bouaké on May 2, 2008 with 1,000 former rebels. 43,000 former rebels were planned to ultimately be involved in the process, which is intended to last for about five months, with completion envisioned by late September, according to New Forces General Soumaïla Bakayoko. Bakayoko said that about 22,000 former rebels would "receive funding to carry out micro-projects", while the remainder would be integrated into the army.[48] The numbers were later given as 36,000 total, with 10,000 to be integrated and 26,000 to participate in rehabilitation projects or national civic service. The government said that it did not have the money to fund rehabilitation projects.[50]

By late May, with the disarmament process continuing, 2,568 New Forces soldiers had been grouped in camps. As part of the process, each of the former rebels were planned to each receive 90,000 CFA francs per month for three months; the first of these monthly payments occurred in May.[50] A delay in the June payment caused unrest among the New Forces in Bouaké.[51]

Members of the New Forces loyal to Zacharia Koné, a New Forces commander who was dismissed from his command in May 2008 for indiscipline, briefly mutinied in Vavoua and Seguela on June 28.[52] An aide to Soro, Alain Lobognon, subsequently said on June 30 that the government did not have enough money to complete the disarmament and implementation of the peace agreement, complaining that the international community was not sending aid. According to Lobognon, "the peace process is in danger because the prime minister does not have the means to implement his policies", and he described the situation as a "crisis".[53]

Choi Young-jin, the UN Special Representative to Côte d'Ivoire, launched a ONUCI program in Bouaké on August 15 to fund 1,000 microprojects for those members of the New Forces who were not integrated into the army. According to ONUCI, the program was intended "to create a stable security environment for free and transparent elections by re-introducing ex-fighters socially and economically back into their old communities". The cost of this program was estimated at about 44.4 billion CFA francs, and financing for it was to be partially provided by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.[54]

A security plan for the election was approved by the commanders of the Ivorian forces and the ONUCI peacekeeping forces on September 12, 2008. ONUCI commander General Fernand Marcel Amoussou also spoke positively of the cooperation between the national army and the New Forces on this occasion, saying that it was proceeding "in a brotherly, pleasant and effective manner".[55]

A New Forces camp in Seguela was attacked on November 24, 2008; the attackers were said to have freed prisoners and attempted to take guns and ammunition. According to the New Forces, eight of the attackers were killed, along with one of their own men.[56]

Gbagbo, Soro, and Compaoré signed an agreement on December 24, 2008, according to which 5,000 New Forces soldiers would be integrated into the army over the course of two years, while another 3,400 would enter the police and gendarmerie. In addition, all of the New Forces soldiers being demobilized were to be paid 50,000 CFA francs.[57] [edit] International funding and involvement

On May 7, several other countries, including France, Japan, and the United States, announced that they were providing 115 billion CFA francs in aid money to fund the election and the process of resolving the civil war. The third meeting of the CPC, chaired by Compaoré,[58] was held on May 9 at the House of Deputies in Yamoussoukro; those present included Gbagbo, Soro, Ouattara, and Bédié. Soro was to present a report on the peace process and CEI President Robert Mambé was to present a report on CEI's work.[59] The meeting concluded with a communiqué urgently appealing to the international community to provide financing for the electoral process. According to Soro, another 35 billion CFA francs are needed.[58]

At a meeting with the United Nations Security Council on June 9, various important figures in the election, including Gbagbo, Ouattara, and Mambé, expressed confidence that the election would be held on schedule. South Africa's Ambassador to the UN, Dumisani Kumalo, observed that, in contrast to the situation a year beforehand, all sides appeared committed to holding the election on a specific date. Members of the Security Council wanted to hear from representatives of the bodies carrying out the electoral census and registration, and these representatives agreed that it would be possible to meet the November 30 date. Kumalo credited the unprecedented progress that had been made over the previous year to Ivorian control of the process, and he said that the UN had only an "accompanying" role. According to Kumalo, Gbagbo asked the Security Council to apply pressure to speed up the process, which he felt was not going fast enough, and also wanted the UN to take a larger role in financing the election; however, he was rebuffed by the Security Council on both points. Despite the Council's concerns about security, Gbagbo did not feel that this would be a problem; Ouattara said that it was important for UN peacekeepers to ensure security during the election. Mambé, for his part, said that he was actively working to finalize the system of voter registration, and he called on electoral observers to begin observing the registration process, rather than waiting until "two or three days before the election to observe". Bakayoko, the former New Forces commander, also spoke to the Security Council, saying that disarmament was proceeding "little by little".[60]

On June 14, Kouchner visited Côte d'Ivoire and met with Gbagbo and Ouattara, among others. He accepted that there was still not enough money to fund the election and agreed to help Côte d'Ivoire find African and international financial assistance, although he said that France would not send any more of its own money. The cost of the election had been estimated at over 100 billion CFA francs, and although 115 billion had already been pledged by other countries, part of that money was to go towards the disarmament process.[61]

Although the mandate of ONUCI and French peacekeepers was set to expire on July 30, 2008, the UN Security Council unanimously voted on July 29 to extend the mandate to January 31, 2009 so that the peacekeepers could "support the organization of free, open, fair and transparent elections". The Ivorian Permanent Representative to the UN, Alcide Djédjé, said that the election would enable his country to get off the Security Council's agenda and "regain [its] full sovereignty", but also emphasized that money was still needed to fund the election.[62]

On January 27, 2009, the Security Council voted to again extend the peacekeepers' mandate by six months, while also reducing ONUCI's size from 8,115 to 7,450 personnel. Additionally, the Security Council called for the establishment of a clear timetable for holding the election. UN envoy Choi Young-jin expressed concern that "for the first time since the signing of the Ouagadougou peace deal in March 2007, the Ivorian people and the international community have neither a date nor a timeframe for the elections." He argued that the organization of the election could falter if it was not driven by a clear objective.[63]