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International Electoral Observation Mission (IEOM) Côte D’ivoire 2020

EISA and Carter Center logos

Abidjan (Oct. 15, 2020) — Today marks the beginning of the election campaign, paving the way for a crucial stage in the electoral process before the presidential election on Oct. 31. The International Election Observation Mission of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and The Carter Center deplores the loss of life and condemns the violence that has engulfed the electoral process, particularly during August 2020. It reminds political actors that incitement to violence is contrary to international and regional instruments that have been ratified by Côte d'Ivoire, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and The Carter Center urge stakeholders in the electoral process to redouble their efforts and use whatever time is needed to address and resolve several critical issues concerning the electoral process through inclusive dialogue ahead of the presidential election. The mission recalls that dialogue remains the only framework through which it appears possible to reach a mutually acceptable solution to achieve an inclusive, transparent and peaceful election.

EISA and The Carter Center have deployed a long-term international election observation mission (IEOM) in Côte d'Ivoire since August 2020 in preparation for the presidential election on Oct. 31, 2020, and the upcoming legislative elections. The mission consists of an EISA and Carter Center senior team based in Abidjan, 12 international long-term observers (LTOs) deployed in six teams across the country and 24 short-term observers who will join the IEOM on Oct. 25. The observation and analysis of the IEOM relates not only to national legislation but also to compliance with the sub-regional, regional and international norms and obligations to which the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire has subscribed in the area of democratic elections.

While respecting the principles of neutrality, impartiality and non-interference, the IEOM believes it is important to draw attention to several key issues and concerns relating to pre-election, electoral and post-election phases.

The rule of law is the cornerstone of all democracies. It is also an essential value that must be respected by all and especially throughout the electoral process, from the adoption of the legal framework until the final results of the election are announced. This process must be credible, inclusive and transparent. Any violation of the principles of the rule of law weakens citizens' confidence in the effective application of their rights.

The IEOM is particularly committed to respecting civil liberties, which must be able to be exercised in accordance with the law. Article 20 of the Ivorian Constitution guarantees freedom of peaceful association, assembly and demonstration. However, since Aug. 19 and until Oct. 14, the government has, through three inter-ministerial decrees, suspended marches, sit-ins and other demonstrations in public spaces throughout the country. The orders were made, among other things, on the basis of a law governing the state of emergency which, instituted by decree on March 23, 2020, was not renewed after May 13. The law in question stipulates that the measures taken under the law cease to have effect at the same time as the end of a state of emergency.

The IEOM also stresses its commitment to respect for the decisions of the courts, including those of international courts and in particular those of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) of 2020 related to the recomposition of the electoral administration and the enjoyment of the rights to vote and to be elected. The mission acknowledges the declaration by the State of Côte d’Ivoire to withdraw its recognition of the Court, which will take effect on April 30, 2021.

Furthermore, with regard to the Constitutional Council’s Sept. 14 decision, its effects on the inclusion or exclusion of candidates on the final list of presidential candidates have exacerbated the climate of tension around the process. In addition, the citizen sponsorship verification system, as developed and implemented by the Constitutional Council (CC), has failed to dispel and clarify the reasons and motivations for excluding from the final list several potential candidates, resulting in a lack of transparency around this crucial step regarding candidate eligibility.

The IEOM also notes that the composition of the Independent Electoral Commission (known by its French acronym, CEI) and the Local Electoral Commissions (LEC) should be more inclusive and balanced. The lack of agreement between the ruling party and the opposition on the criteria for this recomposition at both the central and local levels remains a crucial point of concern for the IEOM, all the more so after the elections for the offices of the 558 existing LECs started on Sept. 15, 2020.

In addition, the mission has noted challenges regarding both operations and access to information at the national level of the CEI. While most LTO teams reported finding a constructive atmosphere at the electoral administration at the decentralized level, the LTO team in the San Pedro region faced restrictions when trying to collaborate with LECs in that area. The IEOM recalls that for an election observation to be credible, observers must be able to have access to all stages of the electoral process. This principle is fully in line with the guidelines of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, adopted within the United Nations in 2005 and of which EISA and The Carter Center are also signatories. The mission encourages the electoral administration to continue and strengthen its communication and access to information strategy for all national and international election observation missions.

With regard to the election campaign, Article 32 of the Electoral Code states that "all electoral meetings and electoral propaganda of any type shall be prohibited outside the regulatory duration of the election campaign". However, the mission observed several pre-election campaign activities that were prohibited by law. Concretely, these included candidate nominations, state visits, and multiple donation ceremonies and infrastructure inaugurations.

Ensuring equal opportunities for all candidates to the presidency remains a crucial principle of any electoral process. This requires a clear system and a specific scope of prohibitions in the legal framework on the use of state resources, including both human and material resources, as well as an adequate system of proportionate sanctions in accordance with standards, obligations and good practices in democratic elections.

The IEOM calls on candidates and their teams and supporters to conduct a transparent campaign free from pressure and false information, including in the media and on social networks. The IEOM also urges the media to cover the election campaign in a balanced and impartial manner and to ensure respect for fundamental freedoms under the Ivorian Constitution.

The mission welcomes the CEI’s initiative to publish the provisional polling station results by polling station on its website. However, in the interest of greater transparency, the IEOM urges that this information be published as soon as available and within a sufficient period of time to allow candidates the opportunity to lodge an appeal with the CC within the legal time frame. This could be achieved by allowing the public and stakeholders to view the results registration sheet online, as well as the image of the results protocol, which is the form used to tally the results data within each polling station. Finally, the phases of provisional results, their transmission, compilation and validation, which will enable the proclamation of provisional results by the CEI, could be done at all levels of the electoral administration in the presence of representatives of candidates and national and international observers.

For more information, please contact the mission's press officers:
Mr. Abraham Kouassi : Abraham.Kouassi@cartercenter.org - Mobile : +225 57847490
Ms. Wahida Samaté : infoioem@eisa.org – Mobile : +225 97655486