Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Manufacturing a president in Cote d’Ivoire

Cote d’Ivoire is in a political impasse after the presidential elections that were supposed to reunite the country. What went wrong?

After the failed coup of 2002 and the ensuing military takeover of the northern part of Cote d’Ivoire by rebel forces, there was a round-table discussion in Linas-Marcoussis, France, during which 10 political groups agreed to create a coalition government and a total disarmament of all the rebel groups and militias.

This would be enacted under the supervision of the French and West African forces in preparation of a free and fair presidential election. A new independent electoral commission was created, composed of representatives of the political parties.

The independent electoral commission during these past elections was composed of a total of 461 members, out of which only 42, that is 9 percent, are pro-Laurent Gbagbo, who is Cote d’Ivoire’s incumbent leader. And 419, that is 91 percent, are pro-Alassane Ouattara and the opposition.

The president of the commission, Youssouf Bakayoko, is pro-Ouattara. To offset this imbalance, it was agreed upon that the commission function by consensus and that ballots should be counted both manually and electronically.

The country’s constitution stipulates that the electoral commission should announce the temporary results consensually agreed upon within 72 hours. The Constitutional Council is the only legal authority that will announce the final results, taking into account all irregularities and complaints. It is important to note that the government did disarm all militias in the southern zone under its control. The rebel forces in the north of Cote d’Ivoire did not disarm.

The current deadlock in Cote d’Ivoire stems from the massive fraud that the electronic tally-ups revealed from the votes in the areas of the country still under the control of the armed rebellion. The voting records submitted from these areas showed that there were more voters than were registered.

And, from the testimonies of African election observers, accredited by the Independent Electoral Commission, voters were intimated, pro-Gbagbo voters were physically attacked (including cases of murder), and ballots were being supervised, stuffed, and carried by rebel forces, contrary to election rules. The tally-up of the Bandama voting district under the control of the rebellion was a textbook showcase of vote rigging and a well-defined example of where the electoral commission was having problems finding a tally consensus.

The opposition candidate appeared to receive the following votes from this particular electoral map: Katiola (38,416); Bouake (42,070); Beoumi (19,058); Dabakala (34,398); Sakassou (15,656); that is, a would-be total of 149,598.

However, Sangare Moussa, the head of the Bandama voting district, reported a total of 244,471 votes, which means there were 94,873 surplus votes in favor of the opposition candidate Ouattara. When the ballots were closed, all observers and those of the two candidates asserted that the voter turnout was 70 percent. Hours later, the electoral commission put it to 81 percent, a jump of 11 points.

Then, out of 20,073 manual tally-ups of the votes submitted to electronic verification, 2,000 were rejected for over-stating the numbers of voters compared to the registered voters in the districts, and, altogether, the overestimated voters were more than 600,000.

Out of the 19 electoral maps, the votes from 15 of them were consolidated, but the commission was having problems consolidating the votes in the remaining four areas under the rebellion’s control, where voting irregularities were observed.

In addition to those tally irregularities, the spokesperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, acting without the consensus of (and in spite of the objections of) the Constitutional Council, unilaterally invalidated all the absentee votes from the 28 districts of France (nominally because of fighting among Ivorians in three voting areas in Paris) in both the initial election and the run-off election.

These votes, as well as the voting irregularities in the northern region of Cote d’Ivoire, where the African election observers had also documented beatings, killings, intimidation, and women being publicly stripped of their clothing, should have been submitted to the Constitutional Council for review.

Because of all these irregularities, and because the Electoral Commission could not constitutionally proclaim, within the constitutionally prescribed deadline period, the provisional results that were to be validated by the Constitutional Council, its mandate was terminated, leaving the Constitutional Council to handle these matters.

But, while that procedure was in progress, the president of the defunct Independent Electoral Commission was ushered to the headquarters of the opposition candidate at the Golf Hotel to illegally proclaim Ouattara the winner before the French state and foreign media and the U.N. representative.

The Constitutional Council stated that the defunct Independent Electoral Commission had no right to declare Ouattara the winner, as constitutional electoral procedures had not been followed.

It deemed illegal the U.N. representative’s ratification of would-be provisional results that were illegally proclaimed. The U.N. representative was to ratify the final results that the Constitutional Council would have certified.

The Constitutional Council then analyzed all irregularities and tallies, partially validated some of them and, after the adjustments were completed, proclaimed Gbagbo the winner. Cote d’Ivoire thus descended into a post-electoral nightmare.

Ekra Miezan, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. He can be reached at ekra@hufs.ac.kr.


Australian said...
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Australian said...

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