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COTE D’IVOIRE: Crisis Within a Crisis Delays Elections Again

Fulgence Zamblé*

ABIDJAN, Feb 20 2010 (IPS) - A week after President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the government and the electoral commission, thousands marched in the city of Bouaké, damaging cars and shops. There have been almost daily demonstrations in cities across the country as Côte d’Ivoire’s political crisis deepens.

Preparing for elections in 2006: the Ivorian poll has now been postponed six times. Credit:  Pauline Bax/IRIN

Preparing for elections in 2006: the Ivorian poll has now been postponed six times. Credit: Pauline Bax/IRIN

Feb. 19 saw the first fatalities, in Gagnoa, in the country’s southwest, when security forces shot at demonstrators; the military told state television that five protesters were killed and nine others injured. Opposition parties continue to boycott Prime Minister Guillaume Soro’s consultations over forming a new government.

“Until this problem is solved with the reinstatement of the CEI (the independent electoral commission) and its President (Robert Mambé), we will not participate in any government and we no longer recognize Mr Gbagbo as head of state of Côte d’Ivoire. We are not accepting this coup d’état,” prominent opposition leader Alphonse Djedje Mady told IPS in a phone interview.

On Feb. 14, Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, dissolved the government and the CEI, claiming the authority under special powers conferred on him under Article 48 of the Ivorian constitution.

According to Gbagbo, the dissolution was in response to the stalemate between the CEI and the president’s party over the supposedly fraudulent addition of 429,000 voters on electoral rolls.   In an interview with IPS, political scientist Herbert Aka stated that the move was more or less predictable and the decision to dissolve the government was actually taken much later than might have been expected.

Aka says “some ministers place too much emphasis on their membership in a political party. This makes their presence in the government untenable as they regularly making scathing criticisms against the government they’re a part of.”

This has caused members of the president’s party to call for the creation of a government whose membership would mostly be technocrats with little or no affiliation to any party.

“We’re only too aware of the political vacuum. It must be filled as quickly as possible to preserve the gains of the electoral process,” said Patrick N’Gouan, president of the Abidjan-based Ivoirian Civil Society Coalition.

“We’ve stated repeatedly that the government should have 20 members and the CEI should be reconstituted with a majority of members drawn from from civil society institutions,” he told IPS.

As prime minister continues working to form a new goverment, Gbagbo announced that he had temporarily reinstated inance minister Charles Diby, minister of the interior Désiré Tagro, and the defence minister, Michel N’Guessan Amani, to carry out essential functions.

Elections planned for the beginning of March are now unlikely to be held on schedule. This is the sixth time that elections have been rescheduled.

*This article, originally appearing in French on Feb. 17, has been updated with information on the protests and repression.

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