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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 15:00 GMT
Ivory Coast braces for parliamentary polls
Ivory Coast, RDR political party supporters
Political parties want to prove their strength
By Elizabeth Blunt in Abidjan

Candidates in Ivory Coast have begun registering for the parliamentary elections due on 10 December.

They will come barely two months after a widely disputed presidential poll that led to the ousting of military ruler, General Robert Guei, when he attempted to rig the polls in his favour.

former military ruler, general Robert Guei
Public uprising forced General Guei to flee
The December parliamentary elections are crucial for all the three main parties in the country.

New President Laurent Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) is set to battle with the PDCI party which ruled the country for 40 years since independence and former prime minister, Alassane Ouattara's RDR party.

Born to rule

President Gbagbo's FPI needs to do well to consolidate its presidential victory and silence suggestions that it won the presidency by default.

Until the December 99 coup d'etat, Ivorian politics was completely dominated by the PDCI which still has a strong and long established national organisation.

Former Ivorian prime minister Alassane Ouattara
Time for Ouattara's RDR to prove its popularity
But no-one knows if that will be enough to win seats now that the party no longer controls the media and the electoral system and has lost the aura of a party born to rule.

The PDCI is also deeply divided; some of the party's best known figures actually supported General Guei in the presidential election.

Their attempts to vie for assembly seats on the PDCI ticket are likely to be bitterly contested.

Mr Ouattara who was barred from contesting the presidential elections, will also want to prove that the RDR is not just a one-man band but a potential party of government.

It is well funded and has a strong regional base among northern Muslims, who also make up a large part of the population in urban areas throughout the country.

The RDR has declined an offer to join President Gbagbo's government for the time being, but says it hopes to be approached again after the December poll when it will have proved its strength.

Honeymoon

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo
President Gbagbo, victory by default?
The current ruling FPI hopes to make the most of its honeymoon period and win enough seats to prove their sceptics wrong.

The party has genuine popular support but its rivals say Mr Gbagbo would never have won the presidency if their candidates had been allowed to stand.

The December parliamentary polls will put their claims to the test.

Everyone expects that the eventual outcome will be some kind of government of national unity.

But the bargaining can only start after the parties have discovered their real strength.

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See also:

25 Oct 00 | Africa
Ivory Coast's uncertain future
25 Oct 00 | Media reports
Ivory Coast minister defects
25 Oct 00 | Africa
In pictures: Ivory Coast uprising
25 Oct 00 | Media reports
Gbagbo addresses Ivorian nation
01 Nov 00 | Africa
No sanctuary for General Guei
02 Nov 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Ivory Coast: Reflections on people power
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