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Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Friday, 26 February 2010

Ivory Coast agrees on new electoral commission

Demonstration in town of Toumodi 17 February 2010
At least seven people have been killed in the recent protests

Ivory Coast authorities have announced a new election commission, key to ending disputes that have threatened the country's peace process.

The crisis began two weeks ago, when President Laurent Gbagbo dissolved the previous body, accusing it of fraud and being controlled by the opposition.

Mr Gbagbo's decision led to deadly protests across the country.

The new commission's leadership team remains dominated by the opposition. Elections have again been postponed.

No new date has been set, although officials hope they can be held in April or May.

Polls to end the crisis sparked by the 2002 civil war have now been put back six times.

The new head of the independent electoral commission was selected after late night discussions between the opposition, ex-rebels and allies of the president.

The consensus comes two days after a new unity government was announced - the previous one had been sacked along with commission.

Voter registration has been at the heart of the dispute.

The presidential camp accused the previous electoral commission head, Robert Mambe, of fraudulently trying to add 429,000 names to the electoral roll.

The opposition, meanwhile, said court cases brought by the presidential camp to eliminate thousands of names from the electoral roll, was a deliberate targeting of northerners, less likely to vote for Mr Gbagbo."

Plus ca change?

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says for the opposition, the selection of the commission's head was key to bringing stability after two weeks of protests in which at least seven people were killed.

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Mr Mambe came from the opposition Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI).

However the new head, Youssouf Bakayoko, who until a fortnight ago was foreign minister, also comes from the PDCI, though he will now have to abandon all political activity.

The New Forces - the former rebel movement that still controls the north of the country - had hoped their candidate would get the job.

The presidential camp had been calling for a neutral figure - from civil society or a respected religious leader.

Our reporter says it is unclear what concessions have been made behind the scenes.

He says it should become apparent after the power-sharing government takes office.

It was announced on Tuesday, but is currently incomplete.

Our reporter says despite two weeks of violent protests, destruction and instability not seen in Ivory Coast for several years, the political scene looks very much as it did before.

The new government will include almost all the same names in the same places as the previous government, and the independent electoral commission remains much the same, he says.



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