- Title: IVORY COAST: Presidential candidates officially begin election campaigns
- Date: 17th October 2010
- Summary: ABIDJAN, IVORY COAST (OCTOBER 15, 2010) (REUTERS) CONFERENCE HALL WITH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ALLASSANE OUATTARA BANNER WOMEN HOLDING POSTER READING "ADO SOLUTION" BANNER OF OUATTARA, READING "ALASSANE OUATTARA PRESIDENT" OUATTARA RAISING HIS ARM AND WAVING CROWDS CHANTING OUATTARA'S NAME CROWD SHOUTING "ADO, ADO" (SOUNDBITE) (French) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, ALLASSANE OUATTARA, SAYING: "As far as I'm concerned this is history, which we are going to successfully achieve tomorrow. It starts today at this precise moment. It will take shape on October 31 for Ivorian men and women of all walks of life. Let's give a better future to our country by giving the destiny of Ivory Coast to a man who knows what he's doing." SUPPORTERS CHANTING (SOUNDBITE) (French) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, ALLASSANE OUATTARA, SAYING: "I solemnly wanted to promise that once elected I will always keep on the road to unity, peace and reconciliation, forming a government with many elements, including all the specialists from different political forces and from civil society." OUATTARA LEAVING CONFERENCE HALL, WAVING TO HIS SUPPORTERS VARIOUS OF POSTERS OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE HENRI KONAN BEDIE ON THE ROAD STREET SCENE WITH CARS PASSING
- Embargoed: 1st November 2010 12:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9M5Z125XL0MJ6J4C799W649L8
- Story Text: Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo officially opened his campaign on Friday (October 15) in the rebel-held west, pledging to industrialise the West African nation by putting a cocoa factory in every growing region.
Campaigns for elections set for October 31 were officially launched on Friday, although the three main candidates have each been unofficially campaigning ever since the long-delayed vote was first supposed to happen in 2005.
Gbagbo's choice of the far western town of Man, in a hilly, forested area near the Liberian border, was symbolic: it was here that some of the worst fighting took place during a 2002-3 war that split the country in two.
"I bring you places of work. It's because young people don't have work, they have been lied to and they took up weapons. A young man who works, doesn't take up arms," Gbagbo told thousands of cheering, clapping supporters in the stadium, adding that this was the place where most of the suffering had taken place.
The polls are meant to end years of crisis that have blighted West Africa's former economic hub, and permit reforms to the cocoa ailing sector that feeds a third of world demand.
Gbagbo repeated a pledge to boost cocoa production to 2 million tonnes a year from its current 1.2 million tonnes.
"We shall build a factory in every region that produces cocoa," he said, elaborating on a promise to boost grinding capacity beyond the roughly 500,000 tonnes the country now has.
The vote is likely to be a close contest between Gbagbo and opposition challengers Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Ouattara. Many Ivorians fear such a close election would inevitably reignite violence if the result is disputed.
Crowds of people gathered at a school in Man to collect their ID cards at the heart of the national identity debate and one of the main reasons this election has been repeatedly delayed.
"The ID card today is like a diamond for Ivorians because once they come in this centre, when they receive their ID card their face changes. We feel that he received something worth millions for him, even though it's just a national Ivorian ID card," said Sinaly Diomande, the head of the ID cards distribution centre.
According to a TNS Sofres poll obtained by Reuters, Gbagbo is the most popular candidate, with 46 percent of voters intending to vote for him in the first round.
Opposition presidential candidate Ouattara told a rally in Abidjan on Friday that he would continue on the reconcilliation path, if elected.
"As far as I'm concerned this is history, which we are going to successfully achieve tomorrow. It starts today at this precise moment. It will take shape on October 31 for Ivorian men and women of all walks of life. Let's give a better future to our country by giving the destiny of Ivory Coast to a man who knows what he's doing," he told his supporters gathered in Abidjan.
"I solemnly wanted to promise that once elected I will always keep on the road to unity, peace and reconciliation, forming a government with many elements, including all the specialists from different political forces and from civil society," Ouattara told his supporters.
Ouattara said he would push for a better share of cocoa profits for farmers if elected.
Ouattara is from the mainly Muslim north of Ivory Coast and was excluded from running for alleged Burkinabe origins in the 2000 poll after coup leader Robert Guei tightened the rules to bar anyone whose parents are not both Ivorian.
In the past, Gbagbo has not shied away from insinuating that Ouattara is Burkinabe and has no right to run. Because of ties with France, he has been painted as a French stooge.
The rebels have backed his cause, though he has always denied having any part in the rebellion himself.
Partisan politics pitting Gbagbo against his two main rivals, Ouattara and Bedie, have left scars on the nation still divided by years of conflict.
But, as Ivory Coast looks closer than ever to elections aimed at putting eight years of crisis behind it, cautious optimism has replaced despair among investors keen to revive West Africa's former star economy.
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