Ivory Coast campaigning for delayed election begins

Image caption,
So far President Laurent Gbagbo has enjoyed most of the coverage on state media

Campaigning has begun in Ivory Coast for presidential elections which have been postponed six times.

The BBC's John James in Abidjan says things remain disorganised but calm, and many Ivorians believe these elections will finally go ahead.

The 31 October poll is aimed at reuniting Ivory Coast, split in two in 2002 after a northern rebellion.

During the 15-day official campaign period, state media are meant to give equal coverage to all candidates.

But our reporter says that so far President Laurent Gbagbo, whose five-year mandate was supposed to have come to an end five years ago, has enjoyed most of the media attention on the state-run RTI station.

From Friday morning campaign posters and leaflets are expected to appear for the 14 presidential candidates across the country, particularly in the coastal city of Abidjan where 30% of the electorate is based.

Our reporter says campaign methods have changed considerably in the 10 years since the cocoa-rich nation last held a presidential election.

Now candidates use text messages, websites, internet radio stations, social media sites, blogs and podcasts as well as the usual rallies, T-shirt distributions and concerts, he says.

Last week, the distribution of new identity and voting cards began at enrolment centres around the country.

Identity has been at the heart of the country's recent troubles, with many northerners saying they were discriminated against in the past and often denied Ivorian nationality.

It has been such a sensitive issue over the past two decades that the New Forces rebels said they went to war over it.

But they are now satisfied that northerners are enjoying full rights as Ivorian citizens.

Some 8,000 UN peacekeepers have remained in Ivory Coast to oversee the election process.

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