Ivory Coast poll democratic despite violence: UN

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Ivory Coast’s presidential election was conducted democratically despite isolated violence and disruptions, the United Nations said.

However incumbent President Laurent Gbago called for results from three northern regions to be cancelled. The electoral commission has issued only a handful of results from voters abroad and said more would follow on Tuesday. The close poll was fought in a tense climate and each side has accused the other of intimidation, Reuters reports.

The streets of the main city Abidjan were calm, but with less traffic on Monday after a night of sporadic gunfire in parts of town. Diplomats are also encouraging Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara to accept the outcome of Sunday’s run-off vote.

In the northern suburb of Abobo, there was a heavy presence of police and soldiers guarding a scene of weekend clashes.
“The second round of the election was … generally conducted in a democratic climate,” U.N. mission chief Y.J. Choi told a news conference, noting violent incidents before and during election day, but judging that voting had gone well.
“I have no doubt that the will of the Ivorian people, as expressed yesterday, will be respected.”

While the election was meant to draw a line under nearly a decade of political crisis and economic stagnation, it has triggered unrest and tension in the world’s biggest cocoa producing country, still divided since a civil war in 2002-2003.

Gbagbo’s side has complained of intimidation by New Forces rebels against party agents in the rebel-held north.
“We will call on the election commission and the consitutional court to cancel the results in Savanes, Worodougou and Denguele,” Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Gbagbo’s campaign manager, said of three regions where Ouattara scored well over 85 percent in the first round.

Votes from these regions accounted for over 26 percent of Ouattara’s final first round tally. The rebels rejected the accusations.
“We condemn these grave accusations and unfounded lies. (They) … have already raised tensions which led five of our soldiers to be injured in attacks,” New Forces army chief of staff General Soumaila Bakayoko said in a statement.

Ouattara’s campaign complained of systematic intimidation in the west, where Gbagbo is likely to fare well.

The state-owned newspaper Fraternite Matin said the second round of voting demonstrated the long road that lay ahead to restore peace. “The reunification of the country remains an aspiration,” it said in an editorial.

Five members of the security forces were killed in the west of the country shortly before vote counting began, 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 electoral commission is under pressure to announce results as soon as they come in from across the country. The first results, from about 10,000 voters abroad, gave Ouattara an early lead with just under 60 percent.

Amadou Soumahoro, vice-president of the election commission, said reports of people being prevented from voting were localised.

COCOA SHRUGS OFF TENSIONS

Despite the tension, cocoa future prices eased in London with traders saying the market was focused on prospects for a good 2010-11 harvest and betting that any disruption would be short-term. March cocoa was down US$31 at US$2,763 a tonne in London.
“The cocoa market tends to shrug off disruptions unless things get really serious,” said VM Group analyst Gary Mead. “There is a sense that the cocoa will get out,” he said.

Ivory Coast’s US$2.3 billion Eurobond yielded an unchanged 10.4 percent. The election was intended to heal ethnic and regional divisions between north and south that lay behind the war. However, the neck-and-neck battle between Gbagbo, a southerner, and Ouattara, a northerner whose support lies mostly in the rebel-held north, has appeared to highlight those divisions.



Observers said turnout was 65-70 percent, down from the first round when more than 80 percent of the 5.7 million voters cast ballots. Observers said they received reports of roadblocks, tension in the polling booths and a lack of equipment for voting to take place.