Candidates in Ivory Coast’s long-delayed presidential election came under growing international pressure to accept the still unpublished results of a poll that saw a turnout of more than 80 percent.
The United Nations’ top official in Ivory Coast, Y.J. Choi, met President Laurent Gbagbo and his main rivals Henri Konan Bedie, an ex-president ousted in a 1999 coup, and Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister and IMF official, to try to ensure they all accepted the verdict of Sunday’s ballot.
“Who could have imagined that the rate of participation would reach such heights? We’re talking about even more than 80 percent and no major incident,” Choi said after meeting Gbagbo at his residence in Abidjan’s leafy, tropical suburb of Cocody.
Sunday’s vote in the world’s top cocoa-grower is meant to reunite a country torn in two by a 2002-2003 civil war and whose economy suffered from political deadlock that has prevented reform and forced six postponements of elections to date, reports Reuters.
The national election commission has until Wednesday to tally and announce votes from across the country. There are fears that losing candidates could reject the result and call their supporters onto the streets, as in past polls.
“I cannot see how a political party or a candidate or a group can defy the will that the Ivorian people have so clearly expressed,” Choi told journalists earlier in the day.
“Within the specific framework of my certification mandate, which I define as safeguarding the result of the vote, I shall ensure that their will prevails,” he said in a statement.
The United Nations has some 9,500 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast who with local forces have been securing the election process, which diplomats say has cost at least US$400 million.
Analysts expect a run-off next month between the top two candidates, rather than any one winning outright.
“This is a huge test of the election commission’s capacity,” one international observer said of the logistical challenges for authorities of reliably collating votes from those of the 5.7 million registered voters who took part.
Market reaction so far was muted, with the yield on Ivory Coast’s US$2.3 billion Eurobond barely changed at just over 10 percent. Cocoa futures in New York were slightly down at US$2,769a tonne.
“The more the political situation returns to normal in Ivory Coast, the better it will be for the cocoa sector,” one European trader in the physical market said, noting there was unlikely to be any short-term impact on prices.
A statement from the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had telephoned all three main candidates of the former French colony’s poll to congratulate them on how smoothly it had gone so far.
“He encouraged them to continue to act with the same sense of responsibility right up until the end of the electoral process,” the statement on the French presidency website said.
All three main contenders said they were so far happy with the vote and held post-election events overnight during which they tallied results streaming in from their representatives.
Ballot papers are being transferred to the main city of Abidjan by UN peacekeepers, who will audit the counting.
There are few differences between the key policy ideas put forward by the main candidates, but a successful poll is seen as essential for rekindling investment and enacting reforms to the cocoa sector, which accounts for about a third of global supply.
“Will (candidates) be able to show the same level of respect that the voters have shown them so far? This is the key concern,” state-run Fraternite Matin wrote in an editorial on Monday, a public holiday.