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ELECTIONS IN COTE D’IVOIRE: THE MYTH AND THE REALITY
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VZCZCXYZ0004 PP RUEHWEB DE RUEHAB #0406/01 1831430 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 021430Z JUL 09 FM AMEMBASSY ABIDJAN TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5230 INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0239 RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
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