Voters Registry Revision and Elections Preparation: A Technical Assessment
At the invitation of the government of the Republic of C6te d'Ivoire, and with U.S. government financing, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) sent a four-person technical assistance team to Abidjan, C6te d'Ivoire on October 19-November 4, 1994. The team's primary objective was the review of the ongoing voters registry revision in preparation for national: elections scheduled for 1995. During this review, the team met with political parties, civic groups," government administrators, government technicians, representatives of international nongovernmental organizations, members of the diplomatic corps, and Ivorian residents.
The current revision exercise symbolizes a positive Change in Ivorian politics. The decentralization of the process to the regional level has allowed more Ivoirians to become involved in the revision and the registration. This decentralization and increased involvement should reduce the feelings harbored by many citizens of mistrust of centrally organized and controlled elections. The IFES team was impressed with the level of aptitude of the majority of the technicians and young field;-workers involved in the mechanics of the list revision. The responsible ministries within the government have access to the tools necessity for the production of a trustworthy voters list.
The team's concerns with the process centered on four areas:
A lack of openness among the government officials controlling the process. Based on the findings of the IFES team and on the information finally provided by the government, the team concluded that, if the government has nothing to hide, they must improve the quality of the information that they disseminate to the public. The government claims to be "open and available" for consultations with political parties and civilians. Following over thirty years of single-party or centrally controlled rule, the population cannot be assumed to be comfortable in directly approaching their government representatives on a one-to-one basis. The government needs to take the information to the population in order to build confidence and encourage dialogue.
A lack of proactive participation in the revision process by opposition political parties and nonpartisan civic and human rights groups. There do exist some groups who can and should begin to approach the government, with or without an invitation, on behalf of the individual citizens, the political parties, and the civic groups. Failure to "take the bull by the horns" will result in no action or dialogue. Inaction favors the party in power and the current administration, permitting them to be accountable to no one.
A seamless relationship between the government of C6te d'Ivoire and the leading political party, the Partie democratique de C6te d’Ivoire (PDCI-RDA). In many of their meetings with government officials and in all of their meetings with the POCI, the IFES team was struck by the lack bf I differentiation between the government and the party. Many in the POCI leadership hold high-level positions in the Ivorian government, and make no secret of their belief that in these first post Houphouet- Boigny elections, it is imperative that the POCI garner support equal to or greater than that reflected by the results of past elections. This support is necessary to prove that the current president was not only constitutionally appointed, but popularly elected as well. Therefore, the POCI is convinced that they must obtain a majority of votes and seats in national, provincial, and local government. As a result of this sentiment, the IFES team feels that a major challenge facing the Ivorian election administrators is the successful balancing of the intentions of the party in power and the equal participation of the other political parties and candidates.
A need for timely publishing of complete instructions for each step of the registration and the electoral processes to define the vague procedural and legal guidelines set out in the electoral code., The adoption of a new electoral code in late 1994 for elections slated for the second half of 19~5 is an improvement over the timing of past electoral reform. IFES hopes that the government will maintain this willingness to set the electoral ground rules early by approving all of the necessary instructions I and decrees before the end of the first third of 1995. The electoral code as it stands can be said to create more questions than it resolves. The process of setting the specific rules and regulations affords the government an excellent opportunity to prove their commitment to open and transparent elections to the domestic and the international communities.
IFES' experience in electoral reform and technical elections assistance in many of Cote d'Ivoire's neighboring nations underlined for the Foundation the importance of the 1995 elections, n<)t only for Cote d'Ivoire, but for the entire sub-region. The transformation to participatory multi-partyism in many of the neighboring nations, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea, the Gambia, and Senegal will only benefit from the conduct of open and transparent elections in Cote d'Ivoire.
I FES presents this report as a record of the current status of technical preparations for the 1995 elections. Throughout the text, the team offers relevant recommendations and suggestions on a variety of topics for the consideration of the Ivorian government as well as the political parties and local non-governmental organizations. For the international community, this document contains information to aid them in their understanding of the dynamics of the Ivorian electoral process and to assist them in planning future democracy and governance initiatives in Cote d'Ivoire.