Lockdown in Ivory Coast, results of presidential vote still not validated
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Ivory Coast's borders have been closed and foreign media silenced after Paul Yao N'Dre, president of the Constitutional Council (pictured), said the Council did not confirm that Alassane Ouattara had won a run-off.
Confusion reigned in Ivory Coast on Thursday after results naming opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara as winner of the disputed presidential election were promptly declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Council.
Later, the army announced that it was closing land, sea and air borders indefinitely, while the government said it was shutting down all foreign media.
In a bizarre sequence of events earlier on Thursday, the head of Ivory Coast's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced that former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara had won the presidential run-off vote with 54% of the vote.
Ouattara won 54% of the vote and incumbent Laurent Gbagbo received 46%, commission official head Youssouf Bakayoko announced, surprising reporters by walking into the UN-guarded hotel in Abidjan where Ouattara has made his base to read off the results.
The results, however, were immediately declared ‘invalid’ by the Constitutional Council. The council also announced it would take over the entire process of deciding who had won the election.
Desperately clinging to power?
Meanwhile, a senior advisor to Gbagbo described the announcement of results by the IEC as an “attempted coup”. Another spokesman for the president told FRANCE 24: “The IEC didn’t declare anything. It was beyond its deadline, it was not in a position of being able to make an announcement.”
For Vincent Hugeux, a journalist specialising on Ivory Coast with France’s respected L’Express weekly, the scene was set for an “institutional coup d’état” by Gbagbo himself.
“Laurent Gbagbo is profoundly attached to the idea that he is the only rightful candidate to be president of Ivory Coast,” he told FRANCE 24.
“There has certainly been a change of speed in the relationship between the IEC, which had multi-party membership, and the Constitutional Council, which Gbagbo effectively controls.
“Gbagbo’s strategy, from the beginning, has been to control the end game of these elections through the Constitutional Council.”
Paul Yao N'Dre, a Gbagbo loyalist and president of the Constitutional Council, said Thursday that the IEC had failed to follow protocol because it had released the results a day late.
In the protracted run-up to the announcement by the electoral Commission, supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo repeatedly stopped the commission from declaring the results, claiming incidents of voting fraud in four of the country’s 19 regions.
On Wednesday, before the deadline expired, Gbagbo loyalists had physically ripped paper with vote count results from the hands of IEC officials as they were attempting to announce them.
“We've asked the [electoral commission] to transmit all the results to us,” N'Dre told reporters. “We will announce the results within seven days.”
Amid the escalating tension, the country has been under curfew since last Saturday night.
Despite this, up to eight people were killed in overnight violence at the offices of rival candidates Ouattara and Gbagbo on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
A long history of instability
The vote, which international observers said was free and fair, was expected to restore stability to Ivory Coast.
The election follows a civil war in 2002-2003 that split the country in two, leaving the northern half in the hands of the anti-Gbagbo New Force rebels.
Gbagbo, whose five-year mandate officially expired in 2005, has stayed in office while claiming elections were impossible because of the war.
He came to power in a 2000 election from which prime minister Ouattara was excluded (ostensibly for being foreign), and survived a coup attempt two years later that escalated into a full-scale civil war.
In a previous FRANCE 24 interview Hugeux explained, “A long and deep-seated rivalry divides Gbagbo and Ouattara.”
“Gbagbo has never forgiven Ouattara for, if not approving, outright ordering his imprisonment when [Ouattara] was prime minister. Gbagbo also considers Ouattara the instigator and financial backer of the 2002 rebellion.
“For his part, Ouattara views the election as vindication for the injustice he suffered when he was evicted from the political landscape.”