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Côte d’Ivoire – Expert Briefing

  • Côte d’Ivoire currently has a unicameral National Assembly with 255 seats. Following the adoption of a new constitution on 30 October, an indirectly elected Senate is due to be established in 2017
  • Members of the National Assembly are elected from 169 single-member constituencies and 36 multi-member constituencies, some of which return up to 4 MPs
  • The National Assembly is composed of:
  • Legislators serve five-year terms. The executive bureau is renewed each year, except for the president and the vice-president, who are elected for the duration of the parliament
  • The current President of the National Assembly is Guillaume Kigbafori Soro, elected in March 2012
  • Follow the campaign on Twitter using the hashtags #CIV, #ci225, #Kpakpatoya, #team225#Const225 

The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) of Côte d’Ivoire is the institution responsible for organising the legislative vote. The CEI last revised the electoral roll in July 2016. This removed at least 500,000 deceased voters, added around 120,000 people who had reached 18 years of age since the last election, and incorporated changes to names and addresses.

The last legislative elections were held on 11 December 2011, precisely eight months after Laurent Gbagbo was arrested and removed from the presidential palace in Abidjan. Gbagbo had refused to step down after losing to former prime minister Alassane Dramane Ouattara in presidential elections held over two rounds on 31 October and 28 November 2010.

Although the 2011 legislative elections were peaceful, participation was exceptionally low at 35% of registered voters. This was in stark contrast with the 81.12% voter turnout in the presidential election held less than a year earlier. According to the president of the electoral commission, Youssouf Bakayoko, legislative elections decoupled from presidential elections fail to generate significant enthusiasm in Côte d’Ivoire (and elsewhere). Only 31.5% of the electorate participated in the previous parliamentary vote on 10 December 2000. The low turnout in 2011 can be attributed to multiple factors.

The 2011 ballot followed months of political turmoil and country-wide post-electoral violence that led to 3,000 deaths. Many Ivorians were understandably weary of elections and the potential risks to their personal safety associated with voting. The political party of former president Gbagbo (the Front Populaire Ivoirien – FPI) boycotted the contest, accusing the electoral commission of bias and the security forces of intimidation.

The boycott was also a way for FPI to express its discontent with the Ouattara government. FPI has been unhappy with what it deems the government’s harsh treatment and one-sided justice reserved for FPI members, some of whom were in exile at the time of the election. Gbagbo has been detained by the International Criminal Court since 2011 and was recently charged with crimes against humanity.

The FPI boycott cleared the way for President Ouattara’s party, Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR) and its ally, Parti Démocratique de Côte d’Ivoire (PDCI), to win a combined total of 203 parliamentary seats. The victory was secured against the backdrop of a deteriorating security situation, a challenging relationship with the opposition and a weakened media. The FPI and its allies again decided to boycott the constitutional referendum held on 30 October 2016, with some elements seeking to violently disrupt the vote.

The Carter Center electoral observation mission report on the 2011 legislative elections confirmed the low voter turnout but also noted the limited number of female candidates running for the National Assembly.  Implementing gender balance in a majoritarian system requires incentives for political parties to integrate women in leadership positions within political parties, including as primary candidates. Only 27 women were elected in 2011, despite President Ouattara’s pledge for a 30% quota for women in the National Assembly.

Prior to the 2011 vote, the number of parliamentary seats had been increased from 225 to 255, ostensibly to take account of population growth. The number of seats might yet increase further as the CEI intends to alter constituency boundaries. In April 2016, an ad hoc commission was created in order to oversee the demarcation process. It has yet to report.

The 2016 legislative vote should have been held by 20 November to comply with the legal electoral timeline. Even with the vote delayed until 18 December, time for consultation with political parties remains constrained. The FPI appears willing to participate, rather than to again boycott the electoral process. Assuming the opposition does compete, turnout is still unlikely to exceed the 52.9% of voters who participated in the October 2015 presidential election.

Kamissa Camara is the Senior Program Officer for West & Central Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Prior to NED, she worked for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) where she managed electoral assistance programs in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. She has trained over 300 electoral management officials in Senegal, Niger, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Burundi, Nigeria, Uganda, Gabon, DRC, France and the United States on electoral operations and elections management. She tweets at @kamissacamara