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Africa

Voters in Ivory Coast anxiously await election results

Text by Guillaume GUGUEN

Latest update : 2010-12-03

There was huge voter turnout in Sunday’s long-awaited and remarkably peaceful presidential elections in the Ivory Coast. But, as yet, the results have not been announced, and people are growing anxious.

Ivory Coast’s economic capital Abidjan was back to its normal rhythm Tuesday. Shops were open and the ubiquitous car horns, notably absent the day before (the All Saints day bank holiday), blared in the city’s streets.


Even the rain was back - “to clean the city” according to a shopping centre security guard standing on the city’s Boulevard de la République.

Sunday’s election – the first in ten years - was an overwhelmingly peaceful event, perhaps a new chapter in the former French colony’s history.

But, for the Ivoirian voters who turned out in huge numbers, the election process is taking an agonisingly long time

High turnout

France 24's Melissa Bell reports on the elections from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast
According to the Independent Electoral Commission, the voter turnout was 80%, “one of the highest in the world” according to Young-jin Choi, the UN's special representative to Ivory Coast, overseeing what many consider were the most open elections to have taken place in Ivorian history since its independence in 1960.

There were 14 candidates who took part in the vote, although only three are considered serious contenders.

Incumbent president and head of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) Laurent Gbagbo is desperate for a legitimate victory at the polls.

Gbagbo is standing against two long-term rivals - former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara of the Rally of Republicans (RDR) party and the former President Henri Konan Bedie of the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI) who was ousted in a coup on Christmas Eve 1999.

Delays

The only results so far are the provisional tallies from the Ivorian Diaspora, which the Electoral Commission was drip-feeding on national broadcaster Radio Television Ivorienne (RTI) Monday.

All other votes are still being counted or processed in Abidjan. It is a long process, and the Electoral Commission admits there have been delays.

"There is a gap between the admirable behaviour of voters and the Ivoirian institutions," pointed out the Chief Observer for the EU Cristian Preda at a press conference.

The 120 European observers, deployed across the country, say they have noted shortcomings in a fifth of the 935 polling offices to which they had access.

Fourteen EU observers said they have been prevented from witnessing counting operations.

However, Preda said the EU had detected “no major incidents, no indications of fraud” in Sunday's poll and praised it for having been carried out peacefully.

Initial results are expected to be announced late Tuesday in Abidjan, home to a third the country’s population.

And anxious to appease the more impatient in the country, the head of the Electoral Commission committed to stick to the timetable – namely to announce partial results by the end of Wednesday at the latest.

After this, the Constitutional Council must validate the result.

Prospect of a run-off vote
Ivorian presidential poll in figures

 

- 14 candidates vying for the Ivorian presidency

- More than 5.7 million voter and identity cards distributed before the poll

- 20,000 polling stations across the country

- 200 billion CFA francs (304 million euros) spent on the election. The figure is expected to rise, making it the most expensive election in African history.

- The EU has sent 120 election observers to monitor the electoral process

- 500 UN peacekeepers will join the 8,650 UN troops already deployed in the country

- Nearly 2,000 foreign journalists expected in the country to cover the first round


The suspense is most tangible at the party headquarters of the main candidates. Under pressure from their supporters, officials at Laurent Gbagbo’s FPI and Alassane Ouattara’s RDR parties insist their parties are ahead and will come out victorious.

Analysts, however, believe the final tally will be too close and predict a run-off vote, scheduled for November 28.

Officially, the main parties are urging their members to respect the outcome of the ballot, and the candidates themselves have been told by the United Nations mission in the country to respect the decision of the voters.

But many Ivoirians fear that the slow process could give rise to violence. In response to these very real concerns, some thousand police officers and military personnel are stationed at strategic points around Abidjan.

The UN also has some 12,000 troops stationed around the country, backed up by a 900-strong French force – a presence that will remain in place until the new president is sworn in.

 

Date created : 2010-11-02

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