Côte d'Ivoire - From our correspondent

Election campaigning kicks off in Côte d'Ivoire

Reuters/Luc Gnago

Presidential campaigning officially kicks off on Friday in Côte d'Ivoire. Fourteen candidates are in the running, but all eyes are on the three front runners: incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo, former President Henri Konan Bedié and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. The campaigning will last two weeks and officially end 24 hours before the vote, slated for 31 October.

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Candidates have been positioning themselves for this moment for years. Although the official presidential campaign starts on Friday, rallies, stump speeches and local support groups have been in full swing for months.

But campaigning without actually saying the word ends on Friday, and as the posters go up across the country, the tee-shirts get handed out and the rally songs hit the airwaves, Côte d'Ivoire can finally dive headlong into a contest that will determine its future.

It's five years overdue, and it's been delayed six times, but the voter cards are now being handed out and the presidential election looks like it's actually going to take place on 31 October.

The winner will have to face some serious problems: crumbling infrastructure, rampant corruption and the lingering remnants of a civil war. Not to mention the fact that the three front runners, all former presidents and prime ministers, all had a hand in creating these problems.

But after eight years of political crisis – with the country on the verge of being reunified after being divided in two – Ivorians are enthusiastic and hope against all odds that this election can begin the long road back to their former glory.

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