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Critical census to be held before November elections

Latest update : 2008-09-15

Ivory Coast is set to hold a new general census to update the electoral register, ahead of November's presidential elections - a key step in trying to resolve the crisis that has torn the country in two over the past six years.

Ivory Coast is set to hold a new general census from Monday that will allow authorities to update the electoral register and eventually hold presidential elections, President Laurent Gbagbo said.
  
Those who participate will also get new identity cards, the president said this weekend.
  
The process should last "between 30 and 45 days" with a view to holding the presidential election before the end of the year. The aim is to build up a large "population index," which will be used to draw up the new electoral register.
  
At present, politicians can contest the electoral register one month after it has been compiled. The president said he would ask them to reduce this period to 15 days.
  
"If they accept, then the election will take place November 30. If they do not, then it will be held December 15," Gbagbo said.
  
The distribution of identity cards formed part of the Ouagadougou peace agreement signed between Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro, the prime minister and leader of the ex-rebel New Forces (FN) group.
  
After the outbreak of fighting in September 2002, the rebels took hold of the northern half of the country and it still remains under their control today.
  
Opposition parties have been clamouring for fresh elections since the end of President Gbagbo's term in office in October 2005. His term was extended owing to the unrest surrounding the documentation crisis.
  
Now that steps are being taken to resolve the problem, it will be easier for the elections to go ahead.
  
All Ivorians over the age of 16 will be included in a new general census. Ivorian citizens living abroad will also be eligible, provided that they are not living in a country belonging to the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).
  
Those who take part will also receive identity cards for the first time since 1999.
  
It is estimated that between eight and nine million voters over the age of 18 will register. In the last presidential election in 2000, 5.5 million voters registered.
  
The "pilot phase" of the identification process which is to begin on Monday will initially include just seven towns.
  
This phase will be especially symbolic as voters will be able to register at Yamoussoukro, the political capital, as well as in towns still controlled by ex-rebel forces -- Ferkessedougou, Bouna, Man -- and loyalist towns in the south -- Gagnoa, Dabou, and Grand-Bassam.
  
It will also give Soro, the leader of the former rebel forces, who became prime minister after the Ouagadougou agreement, the scope to deliver a strong message to his men who took up arms to get the right identity documentation.
  

Date created : 2008-09-15

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