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Africa

New electoral body renews hope of solution to political impasse

©

Video by Oliver FARRY

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-26

Two weeks after Ivory Coast's President Laurent Gbagbo (pictured) disbanded the country’s electoral commission, sparking a crisis with his political rivals and widespread public protests, a new electoral body was established on Friday.

REUTERS - Ivory Coast announced the formation of a new electoral commission on Friday, a key step towards resolving a political crisis in the top cocoa producer that provoked days of violent street demonstrations.

The new commission told a news conference its president would be Youssouf Bakayoko, a member of the PDCI opposition group.

The opposition had vowed to continue protests against President Laurent Gbagbo until he reinstates the electoral commission that he dissolved, along with the government, nearly two weeks ago.

Gbagbo disbanded them on Feb. 12, after accusing former electoral commission chief Robert Mambe of illegally adding names to the voter register to boost the opposition.

That decision has delayed a poll that was already years overdue when scheduled for March, sparking a public outcry that led to bloody street protests.

"Opposition should enter government with this new electoral commission"

Soro, a former rebel during the 2002-3 civil war, announced a new government on Tuesday night, with places for both opposition parties, after a compromise was reached, mediated by Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore.

The number of ministries has been cut to 27 from 32, with the opposition getting a similar proportion to before.

Only 16 of the ministers were named, most of them retaking their old jobs, as the opposition did not put forward names.

Opposition back in?

The main opposition coalition had said it would only join the newly formed government once the electoral commission was reestablished, so the announcement paves the way for them to rejoin the transitional government.

Getting the electoral commission back on track is seen as far more important than the government, which has in any case been transitional since its mandate expired in 2005.

Elections are seen as the only way of restoring legitimacy to the government and ending the crisis in Ivory Coast, which has persisted since a 2002-03 civil war split it in two.

Public anger is raging after years of delays. The military has opened fire on protesters, killing some. Cocoa output, however, has been largely unaffected.

Once the commission is in place, it still has to finish the laborious job of drawing up a final voter list, first by dealing with all the contested names on the provisional list.

Some 6 million voters registered for the poll, but around a million were contested on grounds of nationality, a divisive issue that started the civil war in the first place.

Date created : 2010-02-26

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