Cote d’Ivoire is at an impasse following the Nov. 28 presidential run-off election between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara. After an armed rebellion in September 2002, and several postponements of the election initially scheduled for 2005, many Ivorians believed the poll would help national reconciliation and unification of the country hitherto divided between rebel-controlled north and government controlled south. Formerly an anchor of political stability and economic success in West Africa, Cote d’Ivoire continues to influence political and economic trends throughout the sub-region.
In the lead up to election day, Gbagbo and Ouattara campaigned freely across the country, participated in a presidential debate and pledged to respect the election results. Election day was peaceful, but tensions began to rise as the publication of preliminary results was delayed. Four days later, the chairman of the election commission (EC) announced that Ouattara had won with 54 percent of the vote compared to Gbagbo’s 46 percent. But shortly before the announcement, the chairman of the constitutional council declared that the EC did not have the right to announce results because it did not do so within three days of polls closing as required by Ivorian election law. The next day, the constitutional council announced new results that nullified over 600,000 votes and declared Gbagbo the winner with 51 percent to Ouattara’s 48 percent.
As stipulated in the peace accords that ended the civil war and the UN mandate to resolve the Ivorian crisis, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Cote d’Ivoire validated the election commission’s preliminary results, proclaiming Ouattara the winner. The former rebel movement (the northern based New Forces) immediately pledged allegiance to Ouattara, who promptly appointed their leader (and Gbagbo’s former prime minister) Guillaume Soro as his prime minister and minister of defense. The country’s military, on the other hand, continues to back Gbagbo.
So far, African countries, the United States and the European Union have recognized Ouattara as president-elect, and the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union have suspended Cote d’Ivoire. With Gbagbo still at the state house and in control of the military and state-controlled media, today’s Cote d’Ivoire is a country with two presidents, two prime ministers, two lists of cabinet ministers, two armies, and a very anxious population.
Panelists discussed current developments in Cote d’Ivoire and their potential impact on efforts to organize credible elections in Africa.
Senior Associate for Africa, National Democratic Institute
Director, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Associate Director, The Carter Center
Senior Research Associate for Africa, United States Institute of Peace
Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy
This event was co-sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Carter Center, the United States Institute of Peace, the National Endowment for Democracy and the National Democratic Institute.
Pictured Above: Dorina Bekoe (left to right), Christopher Fomunyoh and Jennifer Cooke discuss the political situation in Cote d’Ivoire at the event.