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Vote count underway after high turnout in historic polls

Text by Guillaume GUGUEN

Latest update : 2010-12-03

One day after Ivory Coast's landmark presidential election, which saw 80% turnout, Ivoirians await the announcement of results from the first round. Though the election was peaceful, there are fears that the outcome could lead to street clashes.

An eerie calm descended over Abidjan Monday. The streets of Ivory Coast’s economic capital were deserted, with businesses closed and few taxis circulating. Anyone arriving in the hushed city would never guess that a crucial and long-awaited presidential vote took place only yesterday.
Early polls indicate that ex-President Laurent Gbagbo is ahead in the first round, but election observers are being cautious about making any hard and fast predictions in this historic election. The main political parties are also keeping close counsel on their numbers until the electoral commission, who are overseeing the polls, make a statement.

Ivoirians must be content with the early indications of the polling from the Ivorian Diaspora, which have been released over Radio Television Ivoirienne (RTI), but these figures are so small that are not significantly indicative. However, provisional results for the economic capital of the country Abidjan, which makes up approximately a third of the country’s population, could be announced as this evening.

High voter turnout

Voter turnout has been high, with 80 per cent of the population casting their ballot according to the electoral commission. Now the entire country is waiting with bated breath for the results of the first round of Sunday’s landmark election to be announced. Though observers said the election was held without violent incidents, there are fears that the former West African powerhouse could be plunged into another round of violence if the outcome is contested.

Pending the announcement of the official figures, all the political parties have urged their supporters to accept and respect the verdict from the election, no matter what the results. This point was further echoed by the UN Special Representative for Ivory Coast, South Korea’s Choi Young-jin.

Across the divided country, millions flocked to polling stations on Sunday to cast their vote under the watchful eyes of international peacekeepers. After six postponements in five years, turnout was so high that many polling stations were ordered to remain open after the scheduled 5pm close time.

Standing in the line at a polling station in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, Bambanaoua, a 34-year-old hairdresser, said she had arrived at 4 a.m. local time. "I came with my family - my parents, uncles, aunts, cousins ... everyone is here. Today, we do not work, we vote. It’s a day for celebrating.”

Trepidation after years of instability

But for many Ivorians and members of the international community, it was also a day of trepidation. Sunday’s election was widely seen as Ivory Coast’s best chance to resolve years of instability following a bitter civil war that split the country in two.

Fears that the election results could trigger violence and a new period of unrest have driven some residents to stock up on food and fuel, fearing riots or street clashes if candidates dispute the election results.

In the past two presidential elections, the announcement of results led to an outbreak of violence in the country.

Once considered one of West Africa’s most stable, prosperous nations, Ivory Coast has been mired in a political crisis triggered by a 2002 coup attempt against Gbagbo, who is one of the leading candidates in Sunday’s poll.

But observers said Sunday's vote proceeded in an atmosphere of calm. Independent Electoral Commission’s president, Youssout Bakayoko, congratulated his countrymen for participating in a "historic moment" that took place "in complete peace".


Date created : 2010-11-01


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