Tue, Dec 13, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Ivory Coast vote peaceful, despite opposition boycott

Reuters, ABIDJAN

Ivory Coast awaited results from its first parliamentary election for a decade, with officials saying a boycott by the opposition had done little to disrupt voting in the country which is recovering from a crippling civil war.

Election officials said they expected most of the results from Sunday’s vote to be known by today, with the outcome seen as likely to strengthen the hand of Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s ruling coalition.

“Overall, the election took place peacefully in polling stations visited in the district of Abidjan and the interior [of the country],” the UN Secretary--General’s Special Representative for Ivory Coast Bert Koenders said in a statement.

The election was boycotted by the party of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, who is in The Hague facing war crimes charges.

Despite some incidents, election officials and observers said voting proceeded normally, although turnout was lower than the more than 70 percent recorded during the presidential election last year that sparked clashes between Gbagbo and Ouattara partisans.

More than 5 million people were eligible to vote for parliament in an election seen as a crucial step toward recovery after a decade of conflict and political turmoil in the world’s No. 1 -cocoa-growing country.

Nearly 1,000 candidates are vying for the National Assembly’s 255 seats, according to the electoral commission.

Ouattara, whose supporters invaded the capital and captured Gbagbo after he refused to accept defeat in the presidential poll, urged Ivorians to vote, saying parliament had an essential role in rebuilding the country.

“Ivory Coast is at work and we need to build the institutions that will now be strong and independent institutions. I am applying myself to this task and that’s why the Dec. 11 vote is an essential vote for all Ivorians,” Ouattara said after voting in Abidjan.

Ouattara’s ruling coalition, which includes his Rally of Republicans (RDR) party and the allied Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI), appears set for a landslide win based on voting patterns during the first round of last year’s presidential polls.

The poll could boost investor confidence in Ivory Coast, which wants to expand its gold mining, oil, cotton and services sectors to take back its place as West Africa’s economic powerhouse.

State radio said the election was peaceful across the country with no major incidents reported.

Pockets of lingering tension and violence, particularly in the west, had raised concerns of trouble during the polls, which were policed by local forces and about 7,000 UN peacekeepers.

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