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ELECTIONS IN COTE D’IVOIRE: THE MYTH AND THE REALITY

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 S E C R E T ABIDJAN 000406  NOFORN  SIPDIS  E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/29/2019  TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL EAID IV SUBJECT: ELECTIONS IN COTE D'IVOIRE: THE MYTH AND THE  REALITY  Classified By: Ambassador Wanda L. Nesbitt for Reasons 1.4 (b/d)  1. C) Summary: Although key figures in the Ivorian government  and opposition continue to insist publicly that elections  must be held as scheduled on November 29, resident diplomats  are highly skeptical, as are most politically-savvy Ivorians.  The gap between public pronouncements and the  behind-the-scenes reality has become so clear, in fact, that  UN SRSG Choi has started referring in private conversations  to the "myth and reality" of elections in Cote d'Ivoire. This  message describes the key myths and realities as we see them.  End Summary  MYTH #1: Cote d'Ivoire Will Hold Elections in November 2009  --------------------------------------------- ---------------  2. (C) The Ivorian government, Independent Electoral  Commission(CEI), and opposition candidates have not deviated  in public from the commitment to hold elections this year.  But the date was set in response to international pressure  (predominantly from the French and the UN) and a key  motivation of each of the central actors is to avoid being  fingered as being responsible for the delay. Continuing to  pay tribute to the 'myth' that elections will take place as  scheduled is viewed as necessary to demonstrate a commitment  to the process. The truth, however, is that electoral  preparations are already lagging behind schedule and deep  doubts persist about the willingness of those currently in  power to risk losing office.  3. (S) The Reality: There will not be an election unless  President Gbagbo is confident that he will win it -- and he  is not yet confident of the outcome. This has been the  assessment of some analysts since 2005 and the political  landscape in Cote d'Ivoire helps to explain why. Gbagbo's  political party, the FPI (Front Populaire Ivoirien),  consistently comes in at third place is still associated with  a minority ethnic group (the Bete). To win a presidential  election, the FPI needs an alliance with one of the larger  parties - either the PDCI (Parti Democratique de Cote  d'Ivoire) or the RDR (Rassemblement des Republicains), but  the latter have remained remarkably united in an alliance  against the FPI, known as the RHDP (Rassemblement des  Houphouetistes). Reliable sources indicate that Gbagbo has  tried since at least 2007 to cut a deal with Alassane  Ouattara, president of the RDR, but has not succeeded.  Ambassador was told just last week that having failed yet  again to co-opt Ouattara, Gbagbo is now focused on promoting  a rift within the PDCI by helping to finance and support  former-Prime Minister Charles Banny's efforts to replace  aging former-President Henri Konan Bedie as the PDCI's  candidate for president. Whether or not Banny succeeds is  irrelevant from the FPI's perspective, as long as the  internal struggle induces a certain percentage of PDCI voters  to go elsewhere. Gbagbo recently told a well-placed source  that he wants to face Alassane Ouattara in the second round  (no one expects a winner to emerge from the first round)  because he (Gbagbo) believes that the ethnic groups who  traditionally support the PDCI will vote FPI, rather that  support an RDR leader who has links to the rebellion.  4. (S) In addition to these calculations, there are other  reasons for the governing coalition to want to hang on for as  long as they can. Cote d'Ivoire will celebrate the 50th  anniversary of its independence in August 2010. Savvy  observers do not believe that President Gbagbo (who savors  the role of Le Grand Chef) will risk losing the prestige and  celebrity that goes with hosting such an historic event.  Also, the GOCI lobbied successfully to host the spring 2010  meeting of the African Development Bank's general assembly,  an event that we believe Gbagbo will use to declare that Cote  d'Ivoire's crisis has been resolved and the country has  returned to normal, even if elections have not been held.  Thus the fall of 2010 currently appears to be the most  realistic potential timeframe for elections. President Gbagbo  will been in office for ten years (the equivalent of two  terms) and although he has stated publicly that he considers  himself to be in an extended first mandate,remaining in  office without a new mandate will become harder to justify  after 2010. The financial benefits of the status quo are, of  course, a prime consideration and not just for the FPI but  for individuals such as the PM Soro (Secretary General of the  Forces Nouvelles) as well.  5. (C) Embassy will be sending septel a detailed report on  the status of the voter registration process and logistical  preparations for the elections. While progress is being made,  the picture is not encouraging in terms of a vote this year.  For despite months of dedicated work and millions of dollars  worth of expenditures, not a single voter registration or  national ID card has been produced. Data collected partly by  hand on over 6 million individuals must be computerized,  linked up with fingerprints and vaQed before cards can be  produced and distributed. The likelihood that this will be  accomplished before November is slim, and there is no  indication that either the President or the Prime Minister's  office is pushing for rapid action.  MYTH #2: The Forces Nouvelles Are Disarming;  Cote d'Ivoire Is Being Reunified  --------------------------------------------- ----  6. (SBU) Cote d'Ivoire has held a number of symbolic  ceremonies to mark advances in the sortie de crise (crisis  recovery) program, such as the Flame of Peace cermony in  2007, numerous demobilization ceremonies in 2008, and most  recently on May 26, a ceremony to launch the handing over of  power from rebel zone commanders (comzones) to civilian  authorities. Genuine progress has indeed been made:  thousands of young men have abandoned the rebellion and  civilian authorities have returned to every major city in the  north, if not every district.  7. (S) The Reality: The progress that has been made is,  unfortunately, only superficial, for it now appears that the  Ouaga IV agreement (the fourth agreement to the Ouagadougou  Political Agreement) is fundamentally an agreement between  Blaise Compaore and Laurent Gbagbo to share control of the  north until after the presidential election, despite the fact  that the text calls for the Forces Nouvelles to return  control of the north to the government and complete  disarmament two months before the election. Ambassador  Badini (Facilitator Blaise Compaore's representative in  Abidjan) confirmed to Ambassador on June 26, the  power-sharing nature (but not the details) of the accord.  Badini acknowledged that the mixed brigades (joint FAFN-FDS  units) slated to provide security for the elections are  intended in part to give both sides a window onto what is  happening in the north, and increase confidence that massive  fraud will not take place. But the 5,000 Forces Nouvelles  soldiers who are to be "disarmed" and regrouped into barracks  in four key cities in the north and west until a new national  army is created, represent a serious military capability that  the FAFN intends to keep well-trained and in reserve until  after the election. The hand-over of administrative power  from the FAFN to civilian government authorities is a  pre-requisite for elections but, as travelers to the north  (including Embassy personnel) confirm: the FAFN retain  de-facto control of the region, especially when it comes to  finances. Disarmament and reunification are not separate  processes. They are intertwined. As long as the confidence  needed to effect disarmament is lacking, reunification will  prove elusive.  Implications  -------------  8. (C) There is a silver lining to this cloud, and it is the  fact that Compaore (perceived as the benefactor of the FAFN)  and Gbagbo are engaged in a direct dialogue designed to put  an end to the conflict that erupted with the failed coup  d'etat in 2002. They have taken ownership of the problem and  while this has effectively reduced the role the international  community can play, their apparent willingness to resolve  their differences peacefully has led to distinct  improvements. Tensions have been reduced as the relationship  between the President Gbagbo and PM Soro has improved, and no  one expQ a full-scale civil war to resume although there  is still a potential for clashes between rival elements. Our  posture as an interested and active member of the  international community has been the most effective stance we  have taken and we will continue to play that role unless the  situation changes.  NESBITT 

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