Ivory Coast party quits electoral commission

AP News
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Posted: Sep 22, 2011 12:52 PM
Ivory Coast party quits electoral commission

The political party of Ivory Coast's former strongman pulled out of the country's electoral commission on Thursday, an official said, over complaints that the commission is stacked with officials loyal to the new president.

The move by Laurent Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front party comes only months after a bloody power struggle ended, and is a potential setback for political reconciliation in the West African nation.

The party's interim president, Laurent Akoun, says there is a "deep divergence" between the political parties on how to carry out Ivory Coast's upcoming parliamentary elections.

Akoun said the 32-member Independent Electoral Commission is stacked with loyalists to President Alassane Ouattara, "seriously threatening the guarantee of transparency and equity in the elections."

Gbagbo's refusal to cede power after losing the November presidential election plunged the country into months of violence that killed thousands. Ouattara was finally able to take office in April after Gbagbo was arrested.

Commission spokesman Baba Coulibaly said the commission is apolitical.

"We are not a political organization," he said. "We are not for Ouattara, and we are not for Gbagbo. We are not for x, we are not for y."

Coulibaly said the commission is going to continue to prepare for the vote, scheduled for mid-December.

After months in hiding, Gbagbo's party is beginning to step back onto the public stage, holding its first public rally last month and rebuilding its headquarters.

However, many of the former strongman's supporters remain in refugee camps in Ghana and Liberia, and still hold the reins to power in the camp leadership.

Last Thursday, two refugees were killed in a camp in eastern Ghana near the border, Ghana Refugee Board coordinator Padi Tetteh told the Associated Press on Thursday.

The victims were perceived "not to be Gbagbo supporters," Tetteh said.