UN warns Ivorian candidates against victory claims

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The chief of the UN mission to Ivory Coast has urged both candidates in Sunday’s election run-off not to claim victory before results are announced, amid fears of violence in a country torn by conflict in recent years.

Y.J. Choi, the head of the 8-year-old peacekeeping mission in the West African nation, said he was conscious of the risks of clashes.

Top cocoa grower Ivory Coast faces a decisive second-round poll on Sunday between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara.

The vote, which is five years overdue and is likely to be extremely close, is meant to end years of military stalemate after a 2002 rebellion split the nation in two. But there are fears of post-election violence if results are contested, Reuters reports.
“I’m launching an appeal to the two candidates in the second round to abstain from proclaiming the results of the election themselves,” Choi told a news conference on Thursday.

He added that the country’s electoral commission had agreed to be quicker in giving out the results. In round one, it took more than two days to deliver significant regional tallies and more than three to give a provisional result.
“Based on experience from the first round and the tensions and speculation that accompanied the wait for the results, I’m pleased by the electoral commission’s decision to progressively release the results on the night of November 28,” he said.

The first round result gave Gbagbo the lead with 38 percent and Ouattara 32. Exchanges between the two have become increasingly heated.

Youths loyal to each candidate have clashed in some places. The country’s former colonial master France, whose citizens have often been attacked by Gbagbo’s youth supporters, called for calm.
“We call upon all the Ivorian players to show calm, restraint and responsibility,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

Asked about the risk of violence, Choi said: “I’m preoccupied but not worried. For the moment, the violence is only verbal, not in action.”



Gbagbo and Ouattara will hold a live TV debate on the state-run RTI channel this evening.