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24.01.2010 Africa

Long-awaited Ivorian presidential polls possible this spring – UN envoy

By UN
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21 January - Côte d'Ivoire has made significant gains in recent months towards holding its long-awaited presidential elections, and if the remaining issues are resolved, the polls could be held this spring, the top United Nations envoy to the West African nation said today.

The elections were originally scheduled for as far back as 2005 but have been repeatedly postponed. Last scheduled for 29 November 2009, they are now slated for March.

“The Ivorian electoral process has made remarkable progress in a peaceful environment,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative Choi Young-Jin reported to the Security Council.

Mr. Choi, who heads the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI), cited a number of recent achievements, including the successful completion of the processing of voter registration in November.

This led to the publication of the provisional electoral list by the Independent Electoral Commission, also in November, with about 5.3 million people confirmed on the list and around 1 million who still need to be confirmed.

The appeals process, which allowed the non-traced people to have their status verified, was completed on 9 January, resulting in over 500,000 people who are additionally traced. This would give the basis for a definitive electoral list of 5.8 million people.

At the same time, Mr. Choi warned that a contentious problem emerged when the Commission cross-checked one list of 1 million non-traced people and produced a second list of 429,000 traced people. The dispute surrounding the second list has yet to be resolved, and it may be several weeks before the electoral process gains speed again.

Once the definitive electoral list is established, as planned, in February 2010, only six more weeks are needed to arrive at the presidential election. “This timetable would lead us to spring 2010 for the presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire,” said Mr. Choi.

The Special Representative added that, beyond the dispute on the electoral list, one possible obstacle to this timetable is the reunification of the country – which was split into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south by civil war in 2002. As agreed by the parties in 2008, a de facto reunification is to be completed two months prior to the presidential election, but progress on this has been slow, he said.

In his most recent report on Côte d'Ivoire, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to press ahead with the remaining preparations for the West African nation's presidential polls, including progress on the issue of reunification.

He added that successful and peaceful elections in the first quarter of 2010 would pave the way for charting the future engagement of the UN in Côte d'Ivoire to support the peacebuilding and recovery process.

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