Daily Archives: December 7, 2010

How not to run elections

I suppose this post could be about Haiti, but it’s about Côte d’Ivoire. The West African state held the first round of its first presidential election in ten years back on October 31. A runoff between the top two contenders, northern-backed Alassane Ouattara and incumbent southern-backed President Laurent Gbagbo, was held on November 28. Gbagbo had won 38% against 32% for Ouattara in the first round, but, as expected, third-placed contender, former President Henri Konan Bédié (25.2%), backed Ouattara who was expected to win. The first round, save for the usual silly accusations of fraud and recount demands from the third placed candidate, went smoothly enough. But since the runoff decides access to the Finance Ministry and its stashes of money, it’s quite important.

Results were due to be announced by the CEI some days after the first round, but it was delayed a bunch of times and finally the CEI announced on December 2 that Ouattara had won 54-46 against Gbagbo. The next day, on December 3, the Constitutional Council announced that the CEI had no authority because it announced results late and that only it could announce results.  It proceeded to invalidate results from a number of northern regions (Ouattara’s main support base) and give Gbagbo the victory with 51.5% against 48.5% for Ouattara. The Constitutional Council is run by Paul Yao N’Dre, who is an ally of Gbagbo.

Gbagbo was sworn in the next day and named his government with a new Prime Minister. Gbagbo, backed by the south, also seems to have the support of the military but lacks foreign support. He has taken a somewhat nationalist tone, a tone which reeks of Ivoirité. On the other hand, Ouattara – who used to work for the IMF – also took office and named incumbent Prime Minister Guillaume Soro (of the New Forces, the former northern rebel group) as his Prime Minister. Ouattara is recognized by the international community as the rightful winner of the election, and has the backing of the former northern rebel groups.

It remains to be seen how long Gbagbo can last without the support of the international community, but he is an able politician and has the backing of important power brokers (the south and the military). At any rate, this election, which was supposed to complete the transition to democracy and stability after the bloody Ivorian Civil War has ironically put the country on the verge of another civil war. A house divided against itself cannot stand.