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Saturday, 6 July, 2002, 06:21 GMT 07:21 UK
Ivorian leader seeks to reassure voters
BBC News Online story 2071889
Anger over voter eligibility has sparked clashes
President Laurent Gbagbo has appealed for orderly voting in Sunday's local elections in Ivory Coast, and ruled out worries about another coup.


There will not be any coup d'etat in Ivory Coast

President Laurent Gbagbo
"We are in a period when, naturally, tempers are running high," the president said in a nationwide TV address.

"I am speaking to reassure all those who have shown us friendship," he said.

"There will not be any coup d'etat in Ivory Coast - not in 10 days, 100 days or in 1,000 days".

Mr Gbagbo said he had instructed the army and police to maintain law and order for Sunday's polling.

"Anyone who wants to cause trouble on election day should be arrested and handed over to the courts."

Voter eligibility

The Ivorian leader acknowledged recent incidents including clashes in the central cocoa-producing town of Daloa which left six dead, sparked by anger over who would be eligible to vote.

The country's election commission has ruled that only those holding official identity cards can vote, but the process of issuing identification papers is not expected to be completed until the end of 2003.

Alassane Ouattara
The main opposition leader has now been granted Ivorian nationality

Political opponents of Mr Gbagbo's ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party allege that identity cards are being issued to his supporters in an attempt to rig the poll.

Mr Gbagbo rejected opposition calls for voters to be allowed to show other forms of identity paper, such as their birth certificates or driving licence, as in previous elections.

He said 75% of the driving licences in Ivory Coast are held by foreigners who do not have voting rights under the Ivorian constitution.

"We will adhere to the documents requested by the election commission," he said.

Emotions run high

Tensions in an already volatile situation rose further after last week's judicial decision to grant Ivorian nationality papers to Alassane Ouattara, the main opposition leader.

Mr Ouattara, the former prime minister from the mainly Muslim north, was prevented from contesting the 2000 elections which brought Mr Gbagbo to power, on grounds of nationality - a move that led to a series of tribal clashes leaving more than 300 dead.

Mr Gbagbo played down last week's decision, acknowledging, however, that it "raised a lot of emotions among Ivorians to such an extent that I could not understand what had happened to my country and my people."

Sunday's local elections, he said, were "the most important thing at the moment" because it was the local councils that would bring schools, drinking water, telephones and medical services to communities.

"I will not allow myself to be distracted and I do not want the Ivorian people to succumb to distractions," he said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

27 Jun 02 | Africa
30 Jun 02 | Africa
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