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Viewing cable 09ABIDJAN406, ELECTIONS IN COTE D'IVOIRE: THE MYTH AND THE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09ABIDJAN406 2009-07-02 14:02 2010-12-09 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Abidjan
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