7 September 2010

Cote d'Ivoire: American Embassy's National Daily Press Review

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This daily press review is compiled by the Information Section of the Public Affairs Office of the American Embassy in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire.

Reports in today's Ivorian press say that all Ivorian key political stakeholders have accepted a voter list produced by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), prompting hopes that Cote d'Ivoire's presidential elections, which have been delayed since 2005, may finally take place.

The political atmosphere, especially the tone of the pre-electoral campaign underway in this country, and the trial of top Ivorian officials allegedly accused of embezzling money taken from the cocoa and coffee sector also make prominent headlines in the press.

1. A banner headline that runs across the state-owned daily Fraternite Matin says that Gbagbo, Bedie and Ouattara have accepted the final voter list that will be published this week by the CEI, the body tasked with organizing Cote d'Ivoire's long-delayed presidential elections. The report says that the decision was reached over the weekend during a meeting of members of the CPC - a committee overseeing the implementation of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement, including President Laurent, former President Henri Konan Bedie, Ivorian opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro and the Representative of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, the mediator in the Ivorian peace process, to evaluate the electoral process. "Together, we agree that the election of the president of the republic be held effectively on 31 October 2010. To this end, it was necessary to finish the final voter list. I am happy to announce to you that we have all agreed on the final voter list," the paper quotes the Prime Minister as saying after the meeting. Soro is further quoted as saying that "we have demanded that the electoral commission president, including all the bodies involved in the process, do what he can to make the electoral list available this week." The Ivorian premier also told reporters that "we have noted a real political willingness on the part of all the members of the inter-Ivorian political dialogue to do everything possible so that the election of the president of the republic is held on 31 October 2010."

2. With a picture of the four Ivorian political players - apparently smiling to the camera -- on its front page, Nord-Sud Quotidien (a daily close to the cabinet of the Prime Minister) comments that the trail which will take Ivorians to the polls on October 31 has started moving. Monday's meeting, the paper further comments, has helped clear the way for the vote, as Gbagbo, Bedie and Ouattara have reached a consensus on the voter's register. According to the paper, the decision has prompted many Ivorians to rekindle hopes that the presidential elections, which have been delayed since 2005, will finally take place.

3. Reporting on the same meeting, Le Nouveau Reveil (a daily close to the opposition PDCI-RDA party) sounds optimistic with a headline reading: "At long last the voter list has been adopted." According to the report, the final voter's register for the October 31 presidential elections contains 5.7 million voters. In another report however, the paper claims that some 55,974 potential voters have been crossed off the list and subsequently cannot take part in the coming elections.

4. Meanwhile, Le Nouveau Courrier (a daily close to the ruling FPI party) carries a front-page story doubting whether the four leaders reached a consensus on the final voter list. The paper claims that, despite the Prime Minister saying after the meeting that "I am happy to tell you that, together, we agreed that the presidential election be held actually on 31 October 2010," the four leaders were not able to resolve the problem concerning those who have been removed from the electoral list. That the final communique released at the end of the meeting did not mention the case of these people is a sign that the voter list is not yet completed, comments the paper.

5. In a related development, a prominent story in L'Intelligent d'Abidjan (an independent daily) says that, despite the assurance given by the Ivorian political leaders to hold the elections on October 31, consultations are still underway to defer the presidential elections. In what the paper calls the blueprint of "another delay", it suggests that, despite the optimism following yesterday's meeting, the Ivorian political stakeholders are working on "the best formula" to announce a possible delay of the polls.

6. As Ivorian political leaders are engaged in a pre-electoral campaign, L'Intelligent d'Abidjan quotes a leading political figure as telling supporters that "if Gbagbo is declared the winner, you must stand up and reject his victory." According to the paper, a defiant-looking Innocent Anaky Kobena, leader of the opposition MFA party, who was speaking over the weekend at a political rally, told the gathering that "if on October 31 somebody appears on the national TV to say that Gbagbo has won, this means he [Gbagbo] has cheated, and you must stand up against his victory (...)"

7. With a picture of Anaky Kobena on its front page, Le Mandat (a daily close to the opposition PDCI-RDA party) quotes the opposition leader as telling supporters that the incumbent president and his ruling FPI party are preparing an electoral "hold-up". Meanwhile, a report in L'inter (an independent daily) says that the Ivorian opposition leaders are threatening President Gbagbo. "Whether you like it or not, you will quit," the paper quotes Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the campaign director of Alassane Ouattara as saying at a political gathering over the weekend. According to the paper, Coulibaly also vowed to fight what he called "Gbagbo's warlike speech," while he is reportedly quoted by Le Nouveau Reveil as swearing "to fight any intimidation." Another report in this paper says that some youth leaders from the opposition RDR party have warned President Gbagbo and vowed to prevent the president from clinging to power.

8. With more on the pre-electoral atmosphere prevailing in Cote d'Ivoire ahead of the October 31 presidential elections, Soir Info (an independent daily) carries a front-page story saying that President Gbagbo is taking a tougher stand. "When we hit, we'll hit right on the target," the paper quotes the president as saying during his just-ended official visit to the southern region of Agboville. According to the paper, the president, who was addressing a rally in this region, warned those who are trying to derail the electoral process and said: "I've asked the defense and security forces to bring under control, in the most severe manner, all those who will try to create mayhem."

9. But a report in L'inter quotes Albert Mabri Toikeusse, the leader of the opposition UDPCI party, as saying that "Gbagbo will fall without the support of the defense and security forces." According to the paper, the opposition leader was speaking at a rally over the weekend and called upon the Ivorian army "to reaffirm its patriotism and behave like brave soldiers who must uphold the Institutions and not the leaders." In a related development, the paper deplores that the Ivorian political leaders have torn apart the code of good conduct that they signed in April 2008 in order to create a peaceful atmosphere in the country. Meanwhile, a front-page story in Le Temps (a daily close to the ruling FPI party) says that Ivorian Moslem leaders, who gathered over the weekend as part of the Ramadan observation, called for peaceful elections.

10. On another development, Fraternite Matin in its weekend issue announced that the trial of top Ivorian officials allegedly accused of embezzling money taken from the Ivorian cocoa and coffee sector is due to start tomorrow in Abidjan. The paper attributed this to the spokesperson of the State Prosecutor, Diakite Mamadou, who was speaking at a press conference on Friday. With the pictures of some of the heads of the cocoa and coffee industry, who have been jailed for their alleged involvement in the financial scandal, the paper also hinted that four ministers and 28 other top officials will appear before the court.

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