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In Ivory Coast, democracy – but not quite as we know it

By Mark John
November 30, 2010

ivoryIn the bad old days of post-colonial Africa, dictators would hail their landslide re-elections as a demonstration of the will of an adoring people while international observers would dismiss the polls as electoral farce.
 
In the brave new Africa, it is often the other way round.
 
In Ivory Coast this week, the U.N. mission chief is going out of his way to hail the election as broadly democratic, while both incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara have complained the vote has been marred by intimidation of their supporters.
 
So what is going on? Two things, at least.
 
Electorates are becoming more sophisticated and literate, although there is still often a big gap between urban and rural voters. Election monitoring, while still a tough job, has also improved. And even the most authoritarian of rulers knows donors will not be best pleased at any sign of meddling with monitors’ work. In Ivory Coast, there is particularly close scrutiny because the poll has costs donors $400 million and they want their money’s worth.
 
Put simply, it is harder to rig an election these days.
 
Secondly, much of the international strategy for dealing with post-crisis countries like Ivory Coast or perpetual-crisis countries like neighbouring Guinea rests is based on the hope that democratic elections will make things better.
 
The fear is that if the election turns out to be a joke, then the strategy falls apart. It is therefore in the interest of the internationals to defend the credibility of the vote.
 
The presidential race in Ivory Coast is an undeniably tight contest  — neither Gbagbo nor Ouattara can hope to achieve the 96.7 percent score achieved last year by Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema in a much-criticised poll.
 
In that sense what is playing out in Abidjan at the moment is broadly positive — an attempt to stage a free and fair poll.
 
Yet what is troubling is the hiatus between the close of polls on Sunday and the announcement of preliminary results not due until Wednesday. The ballots should be pretty much in from the provinces and tallied up by now. So why the wait?
 
Speculation is inevitably mounting of behind-the-scenes wrangling over the vote. The local diplomatic corps is urging the two candidates to accept whatever result emerges. Perhaps there are well-meaning efforts going on to soften the blow for whomever has lost it — and reduce the risk of trouble.
 
The next couple of days will show just how ready for democracy Ivory Coast and its leaders really are.

Comments

Unfortunately, as things turned out, the Ivorian situation is beginning to look like a Zimbabwe scenario, with the Gbagbo regime making these costly elections a farce, physically preventing the electoral body head from issuing the results within the required deadline, defying the UN and the international community, risking to plunge the country back into despair and leading to its isolation. Why did they bother accepting elections in the first place, one could ask? Where do they think the country will go, do they expect to cut ties with the west and “look east” like Zimbabwe tried at some point? StrategiCo., http://www.strategico.fr, which specialises in risk analysis in Africa, has downgraded Côte d’Ivoire from 11 to 12 “High Risk”, with a possibility of armed conflict.

Posted by lydieboka | Report as abusive
 

Unfortunately, as things turned out, the Ivorian situation is beginning to look like a Zimbabwe scenario, with the Gbagbo regime making these costly elections a farce, physically preventing the electoral body head from issuing the results within the required deadline, defying the UN and the international community, risking to plunge the country back into despair and leading to its isolation. Why did they bother accepting elections in the first place, one could ask? Where do they think the country will go, do they expect to cut ties with the west and “look east” like Zimbabwe tried at some point? StrategiCo., http://www.strategico.fr, which specialises in risk analysis in Africa, has downgraded Côte d’Ivoire from 11 to 12 “High Risk”, with a possibility of armed conflict.

Posted by lydieboka | Report as abusive
 

Lydieboka.
As black and African, let’s look at what happened in the Ivory Coast with reason and less partisanship.Did you know how the CEI (The independent electoral Commission) operate? if yes, then your statement is wrong and very partisan.  If no, then back to their site (www.ceici.org) and learn.For your information, the electoral commission works under the supervision of the constitutional court and has 72 hours to proclaim the provisory results from the date of the election. From that time the court examine all the complaints from each candidate with all the supporting documents.  It’s up to the court to validate or reject any complaints based on the rules of the land.  It’s what happened in that case.How come the UN has the right to say that they don’t recognise the ruling of the highest court of the land? It’s not what is in the UN chart.  The real problem here is that France doesn’t want President Gbagbo for several reasons and this country is using the UN security council to achieve what they didn’t achieve with the coup d’état in 2002.The real problem in Africa is that we don’t respect our own institutions and laws.  Can you tell me who in France want against the ruling of the constitutional court?  The law is the law, it might not please you but it’s the law.  Also do you know that in Benin (1995), this country constitutional court invalidated 1/3 of the vote?  My problem with the UN doesn’t have the right to declare a winner except the highest court.

Posted by Movais | Report as abusive
 

My dear Movais, I don’t want this to become a dialogue so please send me an email.

Just one thing, you cannot accept, on the one side, that the international community finance the most expensive elections in the world, send observers who say that elections were generally fair and then refuse the results. Had the presidential camp not prevented the electoral commission from publishing the results within the deadline, the Constitutional Council would not have had anything to do with the final outcome. Wouldn’t it be about time to stop saying the world is against Côte d’Ivoire and use so called legalistic arguments to hide one’s shortcomings? Where has the regime taken the country after ten years? Being against the international community will not take Côte d’Ivoire very far. When the IMF and World Bank freeze debt relief programmes and Côte d’Ivoire is made to pay back its $14 billion debt, it is the poor Ivorians who will bear the brunt for it. Côte d’Ivoire should not turn its back to the world at a time things get global.

Posted by lydieboka | Report as abusive
 

Dear Ladieboka,
First I don’t know your e-mail and second let’s debate here and people will make their mind based on argumentations.I would like to clarify this; I am an independent observer.  From your last posting I would like to point out this element that does not reflect reality based on the Ivorian Constitution:When you said “Had the presidential camp not prevented the electoral commission from publishing the results within the deadline, the Constitutional Council would not have had anything to do with the final outcome”; this show me that you don’t know what you are talking about (And it’s the problem) or you’re so partisan that you take your statements for the absolute reality.  It clear from the Ivorian constitution of August 2000 (Article 94), that the constitutional court is the last and only legal body to declare a winner of any election in Ivory Coast.  The electoral commission is not a legal body; it’s just an administrative entity that organizes the election under the supervision of that court.  The electoral commission has 72 hours to proclaim the provisory results (I just want you to understand the word provisory) and after that, the electoral commission let the constitutional court (Who has 7 days) to proclaim the final and definitive results.Also I want to ask you why the UN doesn’t want to take into an account the report from the African civil Society (This organization is comprised of civil right activist from 47 African countries) who has more observers on the ground than the European Union. Do you know that 4 observers from that entity where arrested by the rebels in the North and they have been freed after the UN forces ask the rebels to do so?  Or maybe you think like the UN that the African Civil Society report is not important because they are not European?  Let’s be honest here.  Everybody agreed that the election has been fair and democratic in most part of the Country except for the northern part that is in the hand of the rebels.  For your information I am not a lawyer or a legal expert (I am just a Civil Engineer) but I thank God who gave me the grace to read and understand what I read.  The problem is not how expensive the election was, it’s not that I want to hide a shortcomings, my main point is that if we African or African descent want a free and democratic society we need to respect the rule of law.Also about what the regime did for the last 10 years, I want you to give me only one country in this planet who achieved any development during a civil war. I am not defending the regime but all political parties were part of the government for the last 8 years, so they are all accountable, so please don’t try to defend what you can’t defend. I want to let the American public and people from outside to know that the so call international community is preparing another Rwanda in the Ivory Coast. 

Posted by Movais | Report as abusive
 

Thank God….I have been seeking placed to comment my outrage. I am not Ivoirian, but lived there for e few years in the late 80s, early 90s. Beautiful welcoming coming country….among the best memories of my life.
I am particularly outraged by what is taking place there….here’s a bit of what I think!

When President Obama visited Ghana last year, in a major address there, he insisted that what Africa needed was strong institutions, not strong men…..yet there is a blatant and deplorable effort by international institutions to discredit the institutions of the Ivory Coast.

In the widely publicized world reactions to the elections in the Ivory Coast, one must note certain flagrant and despicable facts, that all go to perpetrate the long standing push to dominate and to impose by the stronger countries.
A desire to impose solutions that are convenient or favorable to them, or fit their world view:

- blatant disregard for reports of accredited observers on the ground in the widely disputed areas of the North and West, key to the matter. These observers were mainly Africans from other countries….but their impartial reports and recommendations were deliberately ignored.

- the very illegitimate way in which “initial” non certified results were proclaimed by ONE man from the Electoral commission, escaping from the offical headquarters of the Commission to go to the seat of the Ouattara campaign to alone give provisional numbers to foreign news media. And immediately these non certified results are proclaimed by the UN and the world as official.
The UN had accomplished its mission, and had once again set the scene for Africans to start a war and killing spree. Short term objectives by world powers and institutions with little concern for the impact on lives of millions.

- France’s obvious and very bias role in wanting to be rid of his Ivoirian nemesis, Laurent Gbagbo, and leading the efforts to form world opinion in this regard.

- The ECOWAS declaration concerning the recognition of Alassane Ouattara as “President” was made with only 4 of 15 members present.
Who can blame them? They know on which side their bread is buttered……eternally corrupt beggars. Those who had some sliver of conscience remaining preferred to stay at home.

- The United Nations very obvious meddling and wanting to dictate to the Supreme institutions of a sovereign country. It is unconscionable; it would seem that he had a mandate to confirm a certain candidate.

It is always pitiful to see in what countries such an institution tries to play some kind of dictated bias role. Effort to justify its existence. Why not go to Israel, or China or even to the prisons of America? where such an institution would have guaranteed employment for at least half a century?

At the end of the day, I am most proud of the way that the Gbago camp and the Ivoirian legal community has been quietly and with dignity building its case, laying out the facts for those calm heads who wish to examine the situation with impartiality and dispassion. Heads that have no hidden agenda, no interests to defend, no scores to settle….hence no rush to judgment.

Posted by ndree091 | Report as abusive
 

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