Ivory Coast officials rallied Sunday after a tense presidential election marked by an opposition boycott and clashes that killed at least two over President Alassane Ouattara’s bid for a third term.
Scattered unrest, vandalized polling material and some closed polling stations were reported mostly in opposition castles during Saturday’s election, although Ouattara had appealed for calm and his party expected a victory.
At least two people died in clashes Saturday in central Tiebissou and Oume, northwest of Abidjan, a security source said, though a local Tiebissou mayor said four were killed in his town.
At least 30 people were killed in clashes before the vote, reviving fears of a repeat of the West African nation’s crisis following the 2010-2011 election, when 3,000 people died after then-President Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat at Ouattara.
On Saturday, protests degenerated into clashes between ethnic communities supporting rival political factions in Tiebissou, Oume, Yopougon, a poor Abidjan district and in the central western city of Gboguhe, according to witnesses.
According to the office of Tiebissou’s mayor, a member of Ouattara’s ruling RHDP party, some of the 27 wounded in the city had gunshot and stab wounds.
The country’s political feuds are often associated with ethnic identities and regional loyalties.
Tensions erupted in August after Ouattara, in power for ten years, announced he would run for a third term and angered opposition leaders who dismissed it as a constitutional “election coup”.
Opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie, whose rivalry with Ouattara has marked Ivorian politics for three decades, called for a boycott and a campaign of civil disobedience to halt or disrupt the election.
Polling stations send speeches
“October 31 was not the flood that opposition leaders predicted,” Adama Bictogo, a senior government official, said after the election.
“The popular will was expressed and all the opposition did for several months was to defend the idea of not holding elections.”
Electoral officials have up to five days to publish the results. Election stations on Sunday sent speeches to the election commission.
Electoral officials said only 30 to 40 polling stations out of more than 22,000 nationwide were vandalism. But they did not say how many polling stations were forced to close.
Ballot papers did not arrive in Bedie’s district of central Daoukro, for example, where young opposition activists had blocked roads. Local residents said the polls did not open there.
Opposition leaders rejected the election on Saturday as a failure, and several opposition figures, including former exile rebel leader Guillaume Soro, denied recognizing Ouattara as president.
“The election coup has been a failure. The Ivorian people managed to stop this election,” opposition candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan told a news conference in Bedie’s residence.
Opposition parties were expected to hold a press conference on Sunday in Abidjan to announce their next move.
Test for region
The tense Ivorian-style election is yet another test for a region where Nigeria was hit by widespread protests, Malian soldiers ousted the president, and Islamist militants gaining a foothold.
Ouattara, 78, had said after his second term that he was planning to make room for a new generation, but the sudden death of his chosen successor prompted him to seek a third term.
The Ivorian leader says a constitutional court ruling approved his third term, allowing him to reset the country’s two-term presidential border.
Bedie, 86, and other opposition leaders had accused the Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Court of favoring the government and made an impossible vote impossible.
The weeks before the election saw clashes, mainly between local ethnic groups close to the opposition and Dioula communities, who were considered loyal to the president, even a Muslim from the north.
When Côte d’Ivoire emerged from a civil war after 2002, the country was divided into two, the north held by rebels and the south by the forces of then-President Gbagbo.
After negotiations, Ouattara won a long-awaited election in 2010, although Gbagbo refused to accept defeat. After battles in Abidjan, French forces intervened to help Ouattara loyalists remove the former president.