Ivory Coast’s new national assembly, largely voted in on 11 December 2011, is yet to take up position in the chamber. That’s due for March/April, a delay caused some say by the need for the current prime minister and ex-rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, to turn 40 so that he’s old enough to become the head of the national assembly (he was voted in as an MP for Ferkessedougou under the president’s RDR party). In the mean time, the newly-voted MPs fresh from the expenses of the campaign are yet to receive their salaries. An Ivorian MP is not a simple representative of his region in the assembly, but he/she also has some extra responsibilities in the popular imagination, which are to bring development and to distribute money. Hence the anonymous complaint recorded by one new MP in today’s edition of L’Expression:
“We don’t have much choice – we’re obliged to try and scrape by. I used up all my savings in the campaign. I haven’t even started sitting in the national assembly but already I have sponsored three activites in three months in my area. Since the start of the year, tens of people turn up at my home to offer their best wishes for the new year. In return, you need to give them something to take away. I think you know what I’m trying to say. Financially, it’s very difficult, but we don’t have much choice. It’s too early to speak of harassment by the population, but what’s clear, is that times are hard for us elected officials.”
I understand that an Ivorian MPs salary is around 1.1 million cfa ($2,200) a month, without any separate budget for developing one’s region, so I’m not sure where any particular powers of patronage are supposed to come from.