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Africa

Voters anxiously await results of landmark presidential poll

©

Text by Guillaume GUGUEN

Latest update : 2010-12-03

One day after Ivory Coast's landmark presidential election, Ivorians await the announcement of results from the first round. Though the election was peaceful, there are fears that the outcome could lead to disputes and street clashes.

An eerie calm took hold of Abidjan on Monday morning, All Saints’ Day. 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.

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.

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.”

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 President Laurent 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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