UN urges 'calm' vote in tense Ivory Coast
20 April 2013, 14:58
Abidjan - The United Nations Friday called for local elections in Ivory Coast to take place in a calm atmosphere following skirmishes in the run-up to a vote seen as a test of the nation's stability.
As campaigning wrapped up ahead of Sunday's regional and municipal elections, the head of the UN Operation in Ivory Coast (ONUCI) called for a "free, transparent, calm and credible" vote.
The "smooth running will help ease Ivory Coast onto the path of stabilisation, normalisation and genuine democracy," Bert Koenders told reporters.
He added it was "an important barometer" for the west African state, after some 3 000 people died following violence in the aftermath of elections in 2010.
Growing political tensions have pitted supporters of President Alassane Ouattara and his Rally of Republicans (RDR) against those of former president Henri Konan Bedie's PDCI party, which belongs to Ouattara's ruling coalition.
The polls are being boycotted by the party of Laurent Gbagbo, the former strongman who now awaits trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague over violence sparked by his refusal to concede defeat to Ouattara in the 2010 election.
Koenders complained that the run-up to Sunday's election had been "marked by regrettable incidents, including unacceptable acts of intimidation in certain constituencies".
The increase in tension has led to fears of violence breaking out on Sunday and Koenders called on election officials and security forces to show "absolute neutrality" during the voting process.
A UN source told AFP there were concerns that certain top members of the Ivorian army had in recent days "flagrantly supported RDR candidates".