World leaders endorsed opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as winner of presidential elections after the Constitutional Council overruled provisional results and declared that President Laurent Gbagbo had won. Gbagbo is to be sworn in Saturday.
Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo is set to be sworn in for another term Saturday, sparking fears of violence and instability, as world leaders slammed the country’s Constitutional Council’s overruling of earlier provisional poll results that declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner of last week’s presidential run off.
In an unusually strong endorsement of Ouattara, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the longtime opposition leader on his poll victory and urged Gbagbo to "do his part for the good of the country and to cooperate in a smooth political transition in the country".
World leaders, including US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, echoed Ban’s support for Ouattara.
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Speaking to reporters Saturday in India, where he is currently on a state visit, Sarkozy called Ouattara’s victory “indisputable” before going on to add: “There is an elected president in Ivory Coast. The entire international community has recognized him.”
The French president also called on civilian and military officials in Ivory Coast to “respect the wishes of the people and avoid any actions that could provoke violence".
Tensions have been simmering in the West African nation since the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced Thursday that provisional results showed Ouattara had won Sunday’s run-off with more than 54 percent of the vote.
The country’s Constitutional Council, however, refused to validate the results because they were declared a day after the results deadline expired.
In a televised address to the nation on Friday, the head of the Constitutional Council, Paul Yao N'Dre, overturned the earlier result and declared Gbagbo the winner with 51 percent of the vote.
“What we have here is a classic case of two institutions that are clashing with each other,” said FRANCE 24’s International Affairs editor, Douglas Herbert, referring to the differences between the internationally approved IEC and the Constitutional Council.
Ivory Coast’s much-awaited, much-postponed 2010 presidential election had sparked hopes that the once prosperous and stable West African nation could emerge from nearly a decade of civil war and bloodshed that has shattered the cocoa giant’s economy.
Reports of gunfire exchanges in Abidjan
Gunfire exchanges were heard in the country’s commercial capital of Abidjan during the night from Friday to Saturday, residents told the AFP news service. Shooting was also heard in the Abobo and Anyama areas in the north of the city. A military source told AFP that a police patrol exchanged fire with an unknown group in the southern Port Bouet area, where a French military base and the airport are located.
Following the 2002 civil war, which split the country between Gbagbo's government-controlled southern region and the rebel-held north, UN and French peacekeepers have been patrolling the buffer zone between the two regions.
In an interview with FRANCE 24 Friday evening, the UN special envoy in Ivory Coast, Young-jin Choi, said that “even if we take into consideration the alleged irregularities brought up by the president, even if we accept them and deduct those votes, the results remain the same. The results still confirm that Mr Alassane Ouattara is the winner of the second round of the presidential election in Ivory Coast.”
Choi’s comments drew a sharp reaction from Alcide Djedje, Ivory Coast’s Permanent Representative to the UN, who is an advisor to Gbagbo. “If he continues like this, we will ask him to leave Ivory Coast,'' said Djedje.
Bitter rivals in a divided nation
In its announcement Friday, the Constitutional Council said it had annulled results in seven regions in the north of the country.
Gbagbo’s support base is in the southwest region, and the northern half of the country is a Ouattara stronghold.
Alassane Ouattara - Portrait
The two men have been longtime rivals. A northerner and an economist by training, Ouattara was consistently barred from the electoral process since the 1990s. He was finally able to check his own name on a ballot in Ivory Coast’s first round presidential vote on October 31.
But suspicions between the two men persist. "A long and deep-seated rivalry divides Gbagbo and Ouattara,” said Vincent Hugeux, a journalist who writes about Ivory Coast for the the French weekly L'Express, in an interview on FRANCE 24 before Sunday’s run-off vote.
"Gbagbo has never forgiven Ouattara for, if not approving, ordering his imprisonment when [Ouattara] was prime minister. Gbagbo also considers Ouattara the instigator and financial backer of the 2002 rebellion,” Hugeux added.
Date created : 2010-12-04