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Tense Ivory Coast awaits poll results

29 November 2010, 16:22

Abidjan - Ivory Coast's electoral commission was expected to announce partial results of a close presidential election on Monday in an increasingly tense atmosphere with sporadic outbreaks of violence.

Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo faces Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister and senior IMF official, in a tight race that has triggered conflict and simmering tension in the world's biggest cocoa grower, divided by a 2002-2003 war.

Five members of the security forces were killed in the west of the country, shortly before vote counting got under way, two security officials and Gbagbo's campaign director said. At least seven other people have been killed in the run up to the vote.

The election is meant to heal ethnic and regional divisions between north and south that lay behind that war, but the neck and neck battle between Gbagbo, a southerner, and Ouattara, a northerner whose support lies mostly in the rebel-held north has merely seemed to highlight those divisions.

"Contrary to the first round which pleased all the observers, the second round has come to demonstrate the long and difficult road we still have to negotiate to bring peace back into hearts and minds," state-owned Fraternite Matin daily wrote.

"The reunification of the country remains an aspiration."

Resisted pressure

The electoral commission has so far resisted pressure to start announcing results as soon as they come in, but said it will start giving partial results on Monday.

"From around midday we should be well placed to start giving results. We don't yet know at time we will start," said electoral commission deputy spokesperson Nicolas Coulibaly.

The opposition and ruling parties exchanged accusations of intimidation in each other's areas on Thursday, as gangs of youths loyal to the parties gathered outside polling stations along the wide boulevards of the lagoon-side city of Abidjan.

Election observers held late evening talks with UN mission chief YJ Choi after reports of irregularities, including, the head of the EU mission Cristian Dan Preda said, roadblocks, tensions in the polling booths, and a lack of materials.

Both sides seemed to be setting themselves up to blame any defeat on alleged fraud.

"Given the history of this place there is every reason to be concerned but it also ought to be manageable," said an international observer who could not be named.

- Reuters


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