National Assembly Results
|Party||Seats (175)||Seats (175)||Seats (225)|
|Ivorian Popular Front (FPI)||9||14||96|
|Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire-African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA)||163||148||94|
|Rally of the Republicans (RDR)||n/a||5|
|Ivorian Workers Party (PIT)||1||12||4|
|Union of Democrats of Côte d'Ivoire (UDCI)||n/a||n/a||1|
|Movement of the Future (MFA)||n/a||n/a||1|
Presidential Election Results
|1990||Candidates||# of votes||% of votes|
|Felix Houphouet-Boigny (PDCI-RDA)||2 445 365||81,68%|
|Laurent Gbagbo (FPI)||548 441||18,32%|
|Henri Konan Bedie (PDCI-RDA)||unavailable||96,44%|
|Laurent Gbagbo (FPI)||1 065 597||59,40%|
|Robert Guei||587 267||32,70%|
|Francis Wodie (PIT)||102 253||5,7%|
|Theodore Mel (UDCI)||26 331||1,5%|
|Nicholas Dioulou||13 558||0,80%|
The latter part of the twentieth century represents a violent and bloody chapter in the Côte d'Ivoire's history. After the relative stability experienced during the long-serving Felix Houphouet-Boigny regime, the country has since experienced internal violence and instability which has eroded State power resulting in a series of coups d‘etat that ultimately plunged the West African country into a state of civil war dividing it into a southern government-controlled territory, and a northern rebel-controlled territory.
Owing to the civil unrest in the country, Côte d'Ivoire has been unable to hold any form of elections since 2000, with numerous delays and disruptions, mainly concerning political tensions and operational challenges in the voter registration process. The political and discordant landscape of the country has thus been unfavourable for elections. Over the last few years, the Côte d'Ivoire has been occupied with securing a peaceful and stable environment to host free and fair elections. This is evident through the numerous accords and agreements reached by conflicting parties over the period.
To understand the pre-election environment in the Côte d'Ivoire, it is important to analyse the country's recent history to grasp the warring parties' hopes and grievances, as well as to understand the contentious points behind the forthcoming election.
Côte d'Ivoire gained independence from France in 1958, after 65 years of colonial rule. Houphouet-Boigny from the Democratic Party of the Côte d'Ivoire-African Democratic Rally (PDCI), was the country's first President after independence and ruled the country until his death on December 7, 1993. He maintained the same French colonial administrative structures to run the State.
Houphouet-Boigny, in dictatorial fashion, exercised power through the institutionalisation and centralisation of State governing structures, giving himself almost absolute power over the Ivorian State. His authoritarian style of government led to policies of exclusion, thus developing a system of clientalism and corruption that would influence Ivorian society for years to come. The Côte d'Ivoire's first President will long be remembered for numerous scandals that involved corrupt resource extraction, as well as the embezzlement of large amounts of money resulting in him gaining huge personal wealth. Houphouet-Boigny was also seen to be representing French and Western interests, as, despite the Ivorian State's corruption, the previous colonisers were always committed to the protection of the State under his rule.
By the 1980s, the Houphouet-Boigny State began to unravel, owing to years of corruption and mismanagement, as well as deteriorating economic conditions. In what was often referred to as the "Ivorian miracle" owing to perceptions of the country as a beacon of stability in a volatile region, the State's prosperity began to unravel towards the end of the 1980's on the back of rising debt and adverse economic conditions. Coinciding with these difficulties was an increase in civil and military protest, which pressurised Houphouet-Boigny to liberalise certain policies and relinquish some of his power in a movement towards semidemocracy and, eventually, multiparty politics shortly before his death in 1993.
Henry Konan Bedie
In accordance with the constitution, Henry Konan Bedie, of the PDCI, succeeded Houphouet-Boigny as the country's second President since independence. The Bedie government failed to carry out any meaningful reform and generally mismanaged the country's economy. Further, Bedie, in consolidating his power, began to make dangerous appeals to ethnicity in an attempt to monopolise power over the State. In doing so, Bedie emphasised the concept of Ivorite and ruled that, unless both parents were ethnic Ivorian citizens, their offspring would be excluded from any political process in the country.
Consequently, this ethnic legislation meant that the Northern Muslim Alassane Ouatarra, considered Houphouet-Boignys logical successor after his death, was excluded from competing in the 1995 presidential elections, owing to his not being ethnically Ivorite. Bedie won the election and proceeded to tighten his control over the State by imprisoning opposition members and their supporters, as well as introducing legislation that severely limited the rights of non-Ivorites. More importantly, Bedie's policies of ethnic separation damaged the economic and social cohesion of the Ivorian State, laying the groundwork for eventual civil war.
With mounting opposition to Bedie's corruption and mismanagement, which led to steep reductions in foreign aid, the Ivorian economy began to suffer. Falling world prices of cocoa and coffee, the country's primary exports, compounded the situation. The growing public resentment for the Bedie regime finally culminated in a bloodless coup led by General Robert Guei, who assumed power and formed a government of national unity. Guei drew up a new constitution in 2000, that did little for national reconciliation but, instead, institutionalised growing fractures between the Muslim north and the Christian south of the country.
Elections proposed by Guei took place in October 2000, but were neither peaceful nor democratic owing to Ouattarra's exclusion. With two of the main parties, the RDR and the PDCI, boycotting the poll, the election was ultimately contested between Guei and Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI). With provisional results indicating a Gbagbo victory, Guei claimed fraud and disbanded the election commission, declaring himself the victor.
Guei's actions spurred a public uprising resulting in 180 deaths; he fled and was reinstated by Gbagbo. No sooner had Gbagbo been instated into power, than forces loyal to Ouattarra marched on the city of Abidjan and demanded fresh elections. This, in turn, led to violent clashes between Ouattarra's forces and government loyalists who attacked innocent Muslims. Over the next several days of violence, hundreds died before Ouattarra called for peace and recognised the Gbagbo presidency.
In January 2002, official talks were held between President Gbagbo, Ouatarra and Bedie in an attempt to find a solution to the social and political crisis facing the country. Although the negotiations were initially considered a success, hopes of progress were shattered in September 2002, when exiled military personnel mutinied and launched an attack in an attempt to gain control of the north of the country. In the proceeding days, the cities of Abidjan, Bouake and Karahago experienced rebel attacks, resulting in the death of 270 people, including Guei himself.
Although the coup attempt ultimately failed, it launched a prolonged conflict between government forces, in the south of the country, and rebel forces in the north, known as the Forces Nouvelles (FN) or New Forces. In January 2003, the Economic Community of West African States placed 1 500 peacekeeping troops to accompany the 4 000 French peacekeepers already there. The troops maintained the ceasefire line, which became known as the Zone of Confidence. This effectively polarised the country.
The country's first attempt at reunification was in 2003, with the signing of the French-brokered Linas-Marcoussis Accord (LMA). Under the LMA, government forces and the New Forces agreed to a power-sharing government in which the parties would work together on issues of national identity, modifying citizenship and land tenure laws. More importantly, the LMA implemented a programme for demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR). Further, a United Nations (UN) monitoring committee was set up to oversee the implementation of the accord.
President Gbagbo appointed rebel leader Seydou Diarra as a consensus Prime Minister, who formed a government of national reconciliation in March 2003. Despite the creation of the new government, the LMA proved to be ineffective in stabilising the country, as violence flared up on a number of occasions with government forces attacking rebel forces in the north. The violence led to the UN Security Council implementing an arms embargo on the Côte d'Ivoire in early 2004.
A further attempt at peace saw the African Union-mediated Pretoria Agreement signed in April 2004, which formally ended the country's state of war. The Agreement intended to continue to work on the DDR, as well as prepare the country for democratic elections by reorganising the Independent Electoral Commission.
In September 2005, the government postponed its scheduled presidential elections planned for October 30. Further, the terms of the LMA were extended for a further 12 months, which made provision for a new Prime Minister, Charles Konan Banny, who was selected by the international community and given broad powers to reunify the country. Banny then formed a new Cabinet in collaboration with the President, as well as the New Forces.
Despite sporadic violent flare-ups between government and rebel forces, the new government went about taking steps towards disarmament, as well as implementing programmes of voter identification with limited success. Owing to the slow progress of the programmes, elections stipulated by the UN Security Council scheduled for October 31, 2006, were again postponed, causing the Security Council to extend Banny's mandate for a further 12 months.
Contrary to the hopes of the international community, Banny had little influence on the country's governance, as power still rested with President Gbagbo. Toward the end of 2006, Gbagbo called for direct talks with the FN, as well as for the elimination of the Zone of Confidence.
The Ouagadougou Agreement
The dialogue that ensued between government forces and the FN led to the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement in March 2007. The Agreement was signed by Gbagbo and leader of the FN, Guillaume Soro, under the auspices of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and former South African President Thabo Mbeki. The peace agreement aimed to install a new transitional government to reunify the country and prepare elections within ten months. Further, it provided for the elimination of the Zone of Confidence, the restructuring of the Defence Force, as well as the DDR.
Owing to a number of operational challenges to voter registration, the stalling of rebel integration into the new Defence Force, as well as the slow progress in general DDR, elections in the Côte d'Ivoire have been postponed a number of times over the last few years. Despite a November 29, 2009, date being earmarked for the poll, elections have again been postponed to a tentative date of January 29, 2010, much to the dismay of opposition parties claiming that Gbagbo has been ruling the country for too long without a mandate.
The constitution of the Côte d'Ivoire dictates that the country's President is elected on the basis of popular vote for a five-year term. The presidential electoral system is based on that of a second-round runoff. If a candidate does not receive an absolute majority of the vote in the first round, the two leading candidates enter into a second round in which they compete head to head. The Prime Minister is selected by the President.
The Côte d'Ivoire has adopted a unicameral parliamentary system for the National Assembly consisting of 225 seats. Here members are elected by direct popular vote in single member constituencies using the first-past-the-post, or simple-majority, system. Members are elected to serve a five-year term.
One of the most important immediate challenges facing the country is to conduct peaceful, democratic and transparent elections. After years of conflict and political upheaval this may seem a formidable task. National reconciliation is therefore a priority for the incumbent regime. Although technically abolished, the Zone of Confidence carries with it deep social and ethnic scars. Healing the devastating effects of the civil war, and maintaining peace so that free and fair elections can take place, is therefore one of the most challenging tasks Gbagbo and his regime face.
Operationally, the government and electoral commission face a race against time in the process of completing voter registration for the elections. A legacy of discriminatory legislation has left authorities with the task of reclassifying those who were previously labelled as non-Ivorite. Despite mobile registration booths making steady progress, reclassifying voters remains a challenging task. The DDR has also proved to be a long and arduous process, as warring factions reintegrate with the Defence Force.
With political stability in the country, investor confidence will grow. It is therefore vital that the Côte d'Ivoire government provides the relevant policies for their battered economy to grow. The economic decline has led to a drop in living standards. The Ivorian government, therefore, needs to look at proactive ways to stimulate its economy to better the lives of the man on the street. Along with a drop in export commodities, fiscal policy mismanagement and corruption, the Côte d'Ivoire has experienced a decline in foreign earnings. The country, therefore, needs stable and sound financial management to get back on track and achieve positive growth. One of the biggest deterrents to foreign and domestic investment in the country is the threat of armed rebellion. Peaceful stability will therefore provide the platform for economic growth and social healing so desperately needed in the country.
African Elections Database - Elections in Cote d'Ivoire (November 20, 2009).
Angus Reid Global Monitor - Election Tracker: Process hit with yet another delay (November 18, 2009).
CIA World Fact Book - 2004 Cote d'Ivoire (November 19, 2009).
Polity - Ivory Coast presidential hopeful vows cocoa revamp (October 15, 2009).
Polity - Ivory Coast poll plan faces "serious delays" - UN (October 14, 2009).
United Nations Radio - Optimism ahead of Cote d'Ivoire' planned elections in November (November 19, 2009).
United Nations Security Council - Deadline for Cote d'Ivoire elections unattainable (November 24, 2009).
US Department of State - Background Note: Cote d'Ivoire (November 19, 2009).