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Vol 52 No 1

Published 7th January 2011

Elections on trial

In a crowded year of elections, the standoff in Abidjan offers a serious challenge to democracy promoters

At the start of one of Africa’s busiest political seasons – more than 17 elections are due this year – the deepening crisis in Côte d’Ivoire sends a brutal reminder of the limits of electoral politics. The idea that free-ish multiparty elections supervised by the United Nations were going to resolve the fissures between the north and south of the country owed more to hope than to reality on the ground. Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos is one of the staunchest supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo, along with sundry Israeli and Russian officials. His election-winning rival, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, has corralled a wide range of support, discreetly helped by French and United States’ diplomats, along with the good offices of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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