Ivory Coast grinds to a halt in polls chaos

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BOOKS -

ABID­JAN: Banks were shut and port ac­tiv­ity was slow in Ivory Coast’s eco­nomic cap­i­tal yes­ter­day af­ter a dis­pute over pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sults prompted au­thor­i­ties to shut all in­ter­na­tional bor­ders.

The coun­try faces un­cer­tainty af­ter pro­vi­sional re­sults hand­ing vic­tory to chal­lenger Alas­sane Ou­at­tara were dis­missed by the con­sti­tu­tional coun­cil, whose chief is close to Pres­i­dent Lau­rent Gbagbo.

In a de­fi­ant mood in the Gbagbo camp, his cam­paign di­rec­tor dis­missed in­ter na­tional calls for the vote re­sult to be re­spected and said the coun­cil was now the only body that could de­ter­mine the out­come.

Traf­fic slowed to trickle. Shops were shut­tered and the port through which much of the world’s co­coa passes was largely in­ac­tive.

“Since the cur­few there have been very few ships,” Ger­main Gado, 31, a docker, said of the se­cu­rity mea­sure im­posed by Gbagbo be­fore last Sun­day’s poll, which was aimed at re­unit­ing a coun­try torn apart by civil war and years of po­lit­i­cal stale­mate.

Co­coa fu­tures ticked higher yes­ter­day as the elec­tion dis­pute loomed.

Co­coa ex­porters said the clos­ing of bor­ders would not have a huge im­me­di­ate im­pact on the trade as busi­ness had vir­tu­ally ground to a halt.

Af­ter re­peated de­lays due to wran­gling within his or­gan­i­sa­tion over the re­sults, elec­tion com­mis­sion chair­man Yous­souf Bakayoko an­nounced on Thurs­day that Ou­at­tara had won the Novem­ber 28 run-off with 54.1 per­cent of the vote.

The coun­try now faces a le­gal bat­tle over the vote. Gbagbo’s camp says the re­sults are in­valid as the elec­tion com­mis­sion missed by one day the dead­line for their pub­li­ca­tion, and al­leges mass vote-rig­ging in the rebel-held north.

Di­plo­mats said the fact the elec­toral com­mis­sion man­aged to pub­lish the fig­ure – rather than al­low­ing it to go un­der wraps to the Con­sti­tu­tional Coun­cil for a fi­nal rul­ing – would make it dif­fi­cult to tam­per with the score.

State TV has not broad­cast the re­sults but has re­cy­cled old footage of two lit­tle known ob­server mis­sions list­ing prob­lems dur­ing vot­ing in the north and the coun­cil head say­ing the elec­tion com­mis­sion’s re­sults were not valid.

“An­other failed coup d’etat by France,” read the front-page head­line of the pro-Gbagbo news­pa­per Notre Voie.

BBC FM ra­dio was taken off air yes­ter­day, join­ing satel­lite chan­nel France24 and Ra­dio France In­ter­na­tional FM.

Lead­ers of the United States, France and the United Na­tions have called on can­di­dates to re­spect the will of the peo­ple af­ter in­ter na­tional ob­servers had deemed the vote fair.

But Gbagbo’s cam­paign man­ager Pas­cal Aff N’Gues­san said these coun­tries and the UN had no right to do so.

“Ev­ery­one needs to un­der­stand that the Con­sti­tu­tional Coun­cil is the in­sti­tu­tion with the com­pe­tence to pro­claim the de­fin­i­tive re­sults from this elec­tion. No one can say a can­di­date has won ex­cept the con­sti­tu­tional court,” he said. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

JU­BI­LANT: Crowds cel­e­brate af­ter the sup­posed vic­tory of op­po­si­tion politician Alas­sane Ou­at­tara.

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