A second-round run-off looms in the Côte d'Ivoire presidential elections after incumbent Laurent Gbagbo took a narrow lead over his chief rival.
A second-round run-off looms in the Côte d’Ivoire presidential elections after the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, took a narrow lead over his chief rival, Alassane Ouattara, in partial results released on Wednesday.
The 65-year-old president, in power for a decade, had nearly 37% of the votes counted followed by Ouattara on 34%, according to an Agence France-Presse tally with more than half of the about 4,5-million votes counted.
Those results suggest that the election is headed for a second-round run-off later this month between the two men, as former president Henri Konan Bedie’s challenge appeared to be waning. Bedie had 27% of the vote in Wednesday’s tally.
The Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) is legally required to announce provisional results from Sunday’s first-round vote by Wednesday, with any run-off likely to be scheduled for the third week in November.
But the delay in the official announcement has led to a flurry of rumours concerning both the votes and supposed military operations.
The United Nations and former colonial power France have each called on the three frontrunners to respect the results and show responsibility.
The UN special envoy to Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-jin, met all three men on Monday.
A religious panel of Christian and Muslim leaders earlier urged Ivorians to wait in peace for the outcome, and called on leaders and people alike to “take precautions not to slip and fall into the fire of violence”.
After the poll, “peace is closer to us than ever”, said the Roman Catholic archbishop of Abidjan, Jean-Pierre Kutwa, and Muslim figurehead Cheikh Boikary Fofana, among other heads of the faith, in a joint statement.
Neither Gbagbo nor his two main rivals have said anything in public since Sunday.
Gbagbo has postponed polls six times over the issues of who had Ivorian nationality and a right to vote and the progress of disarmament by the former rebels.
The partial results show that the incumbent took more than 50% of the vote in the country’s biggest city, Abidjan.
Ouattara, who is popular with Muslims in the north, won the bulk of the votes there. Bedie’s support has come in the centre, particularly the capital Yamoussoukro.
Polling on Sunday went generally smoothly with a turnout of about 80%, but the European Union observer mission on Tuesday accused the electoral commission of denying its monitors access to its premises.
“It is not acceptable that the commission has denied access to its premises for the 14 observers of the mission in several parts of the country,” the EU mission chief, Cristian Preda of Romania, told a news briefing in Abidjan.
The aim of the election is to install a strong, elected president and bring an end to the politico-military crises that have divided Africa’s leading cocoa producer for a decade.—AFP