Ivory Coast: Election Critique, 10/17/'95

Ivory Coast: Election Critique, 10/17/'95

Ivory Coast: Election Critique
Date Distributed (ymd): 951017

With presidential elections scheduled for Sunday, October 22, in the Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire), all major opposition parties are boycotting the poll in protest and say they will also boycott the parliamentary elections next month. The reelection of President Bedie, successor after long-term President Houphouet-Boigny two years ago, is assured. In addition to the lack of an independent electoral commission, the center point of opposition protest is the electoral code, which alters the previous practice of allowing African residents of non-Ivorian origin (an estimated 40% of the population) to vote.

The code also excluded from candidacy a leading rival for the Presidency, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara's father was born in Burkina Faso, and he has been resident outside the country since 1994, as Deputy Director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, both bars against candidacy in the new electoral code.

The following documents include an open letter from opposition representatives in Washington, and an earlier evaluation, by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, of the electoral code revision process.

Open Letter from Front Populaire Ivoirien and Rassemblement des Republicains, September 15, 1995

General elections in Ivory Coast are scheduled for the last quarter of 1995. In December 1994, however, President Henry Konan Bedie, appointed one year earlier to complete the term of the deceased President Houphouet-Boigny until the 1995 elections, approved a new electoral code. This code, under the cover of the fuzzy concept of "Ivoirite," is aimed at destroying the multi-ethnic social fabric of the Ivorian nation. If nothing is done immediately to minimize the impact of this devastating electoral code, the foreseeable consequences will be extremely dangerous for the survival of this multi-ethnic West African nation of 14 million inhabitants with 4 million Africans of non- Ivorian origin.

Although only a few African scholars, particularly Ivorian scholars, have stood up vigorously against this electoral law, Ivorian religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, have asked the Bedie government to revise the text to remove the openly exclusive and xenophobic tone. The electoral code, written by the PDCI (the Democratic Party of the Ivory Coast), the party in power, with the approval of President Bedie, is discriminatory against some Ivorians. Its principal objective is to sow discord and to spread hate among the different ethnic groups that make up the nation.

The code fosters unfairness against some targeted ethnic groups (the Abbey, the Agni, the Bete, the Dioula), who are considered to be dangerous because they could play a crucial role in countering Mr. Bedie's bid to capture the highest political power in Ivory Coast for the next five years. If enforced, this law would destroy--for the sake of winning a presidential bid--a thirty-year-old history of construction of the Ivorian nation that has made the Ivory Coast a genuine model of integration in West Africa. Indeed, all West African nations have a fairly important community of their own peoples married or living as immigrants in Ivory Coast and this is unique on the African continent.

President Bedie has bluntly stated that his electoral code was to remain, despite urgent requests from Ivorian religious dignitaries, from opposition leadership and from the majority of the Ivorian people. Given the adamant refusal by President Bedie and the PDCI to agree upon a bipartisan agenda--i.e. an amendment to the electoral code and agreement on a fully independent electoral commission, the Republican Front, a coalition of the seven major opposition parties, decided upon a course of actions to bring the Bedie administration to the negotiations table. But in response, the Bedie administration banned for a period of three months "all marches and sit-ins in all streets and public squares." This means that the wrestling match between the PDCI and other legal political powers is now underway. This may lead to bloodshed, because the Ivorian forces of change are determined not to allow the massive electoral frauds of 1990 go unchecked this election year.

Therefore, if nothing is done immediately, we will be making our way towards an almost certain social explosion in the months ahead. The specter of Liberia, a neighboring country which might have been saved from the present human tragedy if one had acted in time, can only haunt the spirits of all those who love the Ivory Coast and who wish it to avoid the all too- common fate of civil war.

That is why we would like to call on the great democratic institution of the American Congress and the Clinton Administration to help Mr. Bedie understand that his electoral code in its current form and the rejection of a fully independent electoral committee are a total denial of the rule of law for free and open elections. This is contrary to what the Ivory Coast authorities agreed in finally welcoming a multi-party system of governance in May 1990. The general elections scheduled for October 22 should be postponed for six months. The delay would allow the Government and the Opposition to work out together an electoral system fair to both. The entire Ivorian population will support the electoral lists that came out of the last census only if Opposition parties participate in setting up a genuine independent national electoral commission.

On behalf of the Ivorian Popular Front: Pascal D. Kokora, Ph.D. On behalf of the Republican Rally, Balla Sidibe. c/o P.O. Box 18110, Washington, DC 20036. Fax: (202) 234-6074.


Excerpts from election planning report of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) (Elections Today, May 1995, pp. 23, 25)

IFES, 1101 15th St. NW, 3rd Fl., Washington, DC 20005. Tel: (202) 828-8507; Fax: (202) 452-0804.

IFES sent a four-person technical team to Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire from Oct. 19 to Nov. 4, 1994. The team's primary objective was the review of the ongoing voters registry revision in preparation for national elections scheduled for 1995. ...

After 35 years of national independence, the 1995 national elections will be only the second to encourage open, multi- party competition. President Houphouet-Boigny's passing signaled the beginning of a new era for the nation, as well as for the sub-region and the entire African continent. One important indicator the change in Cote d'Ivoire is the ongoing revision and verification of the electoral list, and the related debate over the continued extension of the franchise to non-Ivorians. ... After lengthy debate, it was decided that for the first time in recent elections, non-Ivorians resident in Cote d'Ivoire will not be allowed to vote in the national elections.

... The team's primary concern with the process centered on four areas:

*A lack of openness among the government officials controlling the process.* Based on the findings of the IFES team and on the information provided by the government, the team concluded that, if the government has nothing to hide, they must improve the quality of the information that they disseminate to the public. ...

*A lack of proactive participation in the revision process by opposition political parties and non- partisan civic and human rights groups.* ... Inaction favors the party in power and the current administration, permitting them to be accountable to no one.

*A seamless relationship between the government of the Cote d'Ivoire and the leading political party, the Partie Democratique de Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI-RDA).* ... The IFES team feels that a major challenge facing the Ivorian election administration is the successful balancing of the intentions of the party in power and the equal participation of the other political parties and candidates.

*A need for timely publishing of complete instructions for each step of the registration and the electoral processes to define the vague procedural and legal guidelines set out in the electoral code.* ... The electoral code as it stands can be said to create more questions than it resolves.

IFES' experience in electoral reform and technical elections assistance in many of Cote d'Ivoire's neighboring nations underlined for the Foundation the importance of the 1995 elections, not only for Cote d'Ivoire, but for the entire sub- region. The transformation to participatory multi-partyism in many of the neighboring countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, the Gambia, and Senegal, will only benefit from the conduct of open and transparent elections in Cote d'Ivoire.

From: "APIC"
Date: Tue, 17 Oct 1995 10:00:47 +0000
Subject: Ivory Coast: Election Critique