World Affairs Briefing: Cote d’Ivoire and the Crisis of Elections in Africa
Cote d’Ivoire is at an impasse following the November 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. Credible elections would also have a positive multiplier effect on neighboring countries such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. 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, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara campaigned freely across the country; they 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 Alassane Ouattara had won the election with 54 percent of the vote against outgoing President Gbagbo’s 46 percent. Shortly before the EC announcement, the chairman of the constitutional council declared that the EC no longer had the right to announce preliminary results, having failed to do so three days after the closing of the polls as stipulated by the Ivorian election law. The following day, the constitutional council announced new results that basically overturned those of the election commission. The council nullified over 600,000 votes in seven regions in the northern part of the country, and declared Gbagbo as the winner with 51 percent to Ouattara’s 48 percent. As stipulated in the peace accords 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 US and the European Union have recognized Ouattara as president-elect, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have suspended Cote d’Ivoire. With Laurent 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 will discuss 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 (NDI)
Director, Africa Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Associate Director, The Carter Center
Senior Research Associate for Africa, United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
We hope you can join us. Please RSVP to Regional Administrative Officer, Randa Farhat, at email@example.com by December 16th.
Refreshments will be served.
This event is co-sponsored by: the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); The Carter Center; the United States Institute of Peace (USIP); the National Endowment for Democracy (NED; and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).