As international pressure grew on Ivory Coast to release the results of its disputed presidential poll before Wednesday’s deadline, Gbagbo’s camp complained of rebel-led intimidation and said they would contest a vote that rival Alassane Ouattara’s party say has given him a clear win.
Allies of Ouattara, a northerner who denies having anything to do with the 2002-2003 rebellion that split the country, have said Gbagbo is halting publication because he knows he has lost.
“We didn’t lose,” Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Gbagbo’s campaign chief told journalists. “We have requested for a cancellation of the results in several regions of the north where clearly there was no vote, but on the contrary a masquerade to organise electoral fraud for the benefit of Alassane Ouattara.”
He said no poll would be fair while rebels sympathetic to Ouattara ran half the country. Asked why Gbagbo’s camp accepted a poll under those conditions, he said: “You can’t ask someone whose house is burgled why they moved into that neighbourhood.”
Tensions over a poll aimed at stabilising the world’s top cocoa grower turned to farce at a news conference late on Tuesday as pro-Gbagbo members of the election commission tore up results even as the body’s spokesman tried to read them out.
N’Guessan accused commission senior officials of attempting to publish the results before a consensus was reached and spoke of intimidation by rebels armed with rocket launchers.
“The victory of Alassane Ouattara is the raison d’etre of the New Forces,” he said.
It is not clear what will happen if Gbagbo’s camp cannot persuade the electoral commission to annul northern votes or if no results are released by the deadline on Wednesday night, but the constitutional council must approve any final ruling.
Constitutional council President Paul Yao N’Dre is a staunch Gbagbo ally and member of his party. He overruled opposition first round challenges within three days of provisional results.
“The results must be published today,” urged Michele Alliot-Marie, Foreign minister of ex-colonial power France.
“What I hope is that Ivory Coast, which has always been a model of democracy in Africa, will … revive that image with calm surrounding the results,” she told French Europe 1 radio.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called for calm: “We strongly urge candidates to allow the counting and announcement of the results to take place without interference and to respect the results that are announced,” she said.
Cocoa futures spiked on Tuesday, after many Ivorian exporters fearful of possible street violence suspended trade.
Cocoa futures in London ended up 40 pounds or 2,7% at 1,895 pounds a tonne on Tuesday, but they reversed most of those gains on Wednesday, falling 38 pounds.
The yield on Ivory Coast’s US$2,3 billion Eurobond has ticked slightly higher, reaching 10,8% compared to its pre-vote levels of just below 10%.
The streets of the economic capital Abidjan were quiet.
The vote was meant to end the process of reunifying what used to be one of West Africa’s most stable economies, but it has also reopened the north-south divisions that caused the rebellion.
Both camps can mobilise rival supporters onto the streets. Five members of the security forces and at least seven others were killed in violence before the vote, according to reports.
Alliot-Marie said there was no direct threat hanging over the 12 000-strong French expatriate community but 900 French troops on alert would be able to protect them.
UN mission chief YJ Choi has endorsed the vote as broadly democratic despite the violence and some evidence of irregularities. The election body has said turnout was about 70%, down from more than 80% in the first round.
Gbagbo led after the first round with 38% of the vote compared to ex-IMF official Ouattara’s 32% score. But Ouattara received public endorsement from third-placed Henri Konan Bedie, who picked up 25% in the first round. — BBCOnline.