Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: In legislative elections held on December 18, the ruling government coalition won 66 percent of the 255 National Assembly seats. The main opposition party, which boycotted the 2011 legislative elections, participated and won seats. The elections were considered peaceful, inclusive, and transparent. In the October 2015 presidential election, President Alassane Ouattara was re-elected by a significant majority. International and domestic observers judged this election to be free and fair.
On October 30, the government conducted a referendum on a new constitution to replace the postmilitary coup constitution of 2000. The process for drafting the new constitution–and to a certain extent the content itself–was contentious. Opposition parties and some local and international organizations claimed the process was neither inclusive nor transparent and criticized the new text for strengthening the role of the executive branch. Despite an opposition boycott, the referendum passed overwhelmingly in a peaceful process that was inclusive and generally transparent.
Political Parties and Political Participation: The law prohibits the formation of political parties along ethnic or religious lines. Ethnicity, however, was often a key factor in party membership. Opposition leaders reported denials of their requests to hold political meetings and alleged inconsistent standards for granting public assembly permits.
For example, on October 3, the prefect of the district of Abidjan refused a permit for the planned October 5 opposition sit-in at the national assembly, where the president was scheduled to present the new constitution to deputies. The opposition postponed its protest until the following Saturday, but opposition leader, Mamadou Koulibaly, defied the ban and was arrested; Koulibaly was released two hours later.
Participation of Women and Minorities: There are no laws limiting the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process, and women and minorities did so. Cultural and traditional beliefs, however, limited the role of women. Of 253 national assembly members, 26 were women; of 197 mayors, 11 were women; of 31 regional council presidents, one was a woman. A few women held more prominent positions, including that of first vice president of the national assembly, nine of 36 cabinet ministers, and several chairs of important commissions.
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Media and human rights groups reported significant official corruption. Transparency International indicated corruption was a severe problem, having the greatest effect on judicial proceedings, accountability of the security forces, contract awards, and customs and tax matters.
Corruption: On May 26, the government fired the director and deputy director of the Cotton and Cashew Council following an audit.
In May the High Authority for Good Governance, an independent administrative authority with legal and financial autonomy, reported corruption in 33 percent of the cases it investigated; 64 percent of HABG cases originated from public submissions.
The Independent National Public Procurement Regulatory Agency (ANRMP) is responsible for supporting, monitoring, and enforcing fair competition for government contracts. Following a 2014 report that 57 percent of all government contracts were sole-sourced, ANRMP began auditing government contracts. It found that from March 2015 to March, 78 percent of approved contracts were executed through competitive bidding.
Financial Disclosure: A presidential decree requires the head of state, ministers, heads of national institutions, and directors of administration to disclose their income and assets. Unlike in the past, when there was no penalty for noncompliance, in March 2015 the HABG started requiring public officials to submit a wealth declaration within 30 days of the beginning of their term in office. The declaration was confidential, but the list of those who have declared their wealth was publicly accessible in the official government journal. Officials who did not comply or provided a false declaration faced fines equal to six months of their salary. As of October approximately 50 percent of officials had declared their assets, and no one had been fined.
Public Access to Information: The law grants public access to government data, with the exception of information vital for the preservation of state security. Data relating to government activities and budgeting was largely available but varied among ministries and was often delayed. Much of the Ministry of Finance’s data, including the national budget, was accessible on its website. Public procurement was generally transparent. The ANRMP quickly provided key information on procurement without charge, and it had a transparent decision making and public appeals process. If requested data was not provided, ANRMP referred the case to the Public Documents and Public Interest Information Access Commission, an independent administrative authority with the power to compel and sanction other public institutions not complying with the law.