From Crisis to Credibility in Ivoirian Elections

Technical Manager Sédrick N’Gotta [standing right] shows POECI’s PVT headquarters to a visiting delegation on October 25, 2015
Technical Manager Sédrick N’Gotta [standing right] shows POECI’s PVT headquarters to a visiting delegation on October 25, 2015
Coleman Donaldson
The crisis that erupted after the contested 2010 presidential election results in Côte d'Ivoire left the country deeply divided, with over 3,000 people dead  and great doubt about a the prospect of future peaceful elections and transitions of power. After the 2010 crisis, anxiety about the 2015 election lingered and affected the thinking of many about what it would mean for Côte d'Ivoire.  Would it reignite the recent conflict? Would the election be fair and transparent with credible results – both in perception and in actuality? These are the reasons why the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS) and 14 civil society organizations to form an independent platform to provide outside verification of the credibility of the election outcome. 
The organization, called the Platform of Organizations for Elections in Cote d'Ivoire (POECI), performed a parallel vote tabulation for the 2015 presidential election.  Using statistical models to determine a representative sample of polling places, POECI observers were able to closely monitor turnout and report instant feedback to determine if the official turnout reflected those findings.  Using mobile SMS technology and a central database to compile the real-time information, the POECI team was able to quickly assess the credibility of the election and the outcome. POECI’s findings were used by many in the international community, including the U.S. Department of State, in their assessments of the elections’ credibility.
As part of this exercise, USAID and its partners trained the POECI observers to monitor for any irregularities and report on the implementation of a Code of Good Conduct that was signed by members of all of the political parties in Cote d'Ivoire.  The Code was developed to ensure that all candidates and their parties maintain good behavior leading up to and during the elections.
Looking forward, the intention now is to keep POECI’s technology-based model going, build on it, and deploy an observation mission for the legislative and local elections in 2016. The findings from the presidential election can be used as a baseline for statistical analysis to track political trends in the country. 
In a country that has historically struggled with a largely politicized civil society, the success of the POECI platform demonstrated a change in the way civil society organizations are perceived by Ivoirians and the good work that can be done by these organizations. The 2015 presidential election and its aftermath were peaceful and orderly, due in large part to the international and national consensus that it was fair, transparent and credible. The challenge is now how the country will build on that trust and integrity in coming years and coming elections.
Testimonials came in from across the political spectrum:
Kouakou Kra, the lead opposition party's (FPI) head of  election operations (and former legislator), appreciated the development of a "professional, responsible civil society" in Cote d'Ivoire.  "We now have the government on one side, the opposition on the other, and we have POECI."
Anicet Yanzi of the UDCY (centrist) said POECI's PVT was "magic."
An opposition CAP-UDD representative echoed the description of POECI's work as "professional and credible."
Finally, the Independent Election Commission Chairman Youssouf Bakayoko said that "Because of POECI's PVT, there was no fighting in the country [over the election]."