Ivorian Prime Minister Guillaume Soro has annulled hundreds of thousands of disputed names on the electoral register, after complaints from President Laurent Gbagbo that they were not subjected to checks.
Gbagbo accused the electoral commission (CEI) late last week of admitting some 429,000 voters who had not been cross checked and may be be illegitimate, sparking a political row and raising doubts over whether long delayed polls will be able to be held on time.
Soro, a former rebel against Gbagbo who became prime minister in 2007 under a peace deal, leads an arbitration committee which has powers to oversee the electoral process. He can overule the CEI.
That committee met yesterday and Soro decided to annul the disputed names, an action which may avert the risk of further delays to a poll that is already almost five years overdue.
"We have declared that the (list of disputed names) that the electoral commission has made was null and void, because it did not follow the procedure that had been previously established," Soro said in a statement published in the local press on Wednesday.
"We declared them inadmissible."
A spokesman for the electoral commission said he could not yet comment.
The polls are seen as vital if Ivory Coast is to reclaim its position as West Africa's economic hub, lost after a 2002-3 war plunged the country into crisis and sent investors fleeing.
Badly needed reforms of an ailing cocoa sector, which supplies 40 percent of global demand, hinge on the vote.
Six million Ivorians registered for a poll meant to reunite a country half administered by rebels.
A million of those names were contested, many on grounds of nationality -- a divisive issue that largely lay behind the war -- but the electoral commission said over the weekend it had finished the contestation period and that it will be ready with a final list by the end of the month.
"The transparency and clarity of the final voters list will be guaranteed," Soro said.