Uncertain Election Results in Côte d'Ivoire Leave the Country on Edge

With both sides claiming victory in last month's presidential elections, life is tense for those living in this once prosperous West African nation. Rumors of civil war run rampant.

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Voter turnout then skyrocketed to 81.12 percent, and an extra 64,290 registered voters were mysteriously added to the previously U.N.-sanctioned registered-voter list (pdf) within the CEI results, actually increasing the overall number of voters from the first to the second rounds. According to the CEI results, voter turnout increased in 30 percent of the polling stations, including drastic increases in two of the three later contested regions.

The CEI is said to be largely pro-Ouattara, while the Constitutional Council is said to be largely pro-Gbagbo, making both rather suspect in their motivations. Days later, members of the CEI independently read Ouattara as the winner, while the council separately announced Gbagbo as the winner without thorough investigation, and only after discounting several contested regions in the Ouattara-backed north.

The foreign vote in France and a few other countries was completely erased by the CEI because of claims of election fraud, violence and irregularities; yet the irregularities previously cited in the country were then discounted and the vote was touted as "fair and free."

Violence flared as protesters took to the streets. Many locals called for investigation, as did several observer teams, with the Carter Center even cautioning "against a rush to judgment regarding the overall credibility of the election" in its report. Within days, the international community had rallied behind Ouattara, declaring him a winner in "fair and free" elections and claiming only minor irregularities. Gbagbo did his best to silence the international intervention but is now being severely sanctioned for his insistent call of victory.

Helicopters are now frequently heard overhead, and the smell of burning tires pervades the air. The city is slowly returning to normal, although people are cautiously stocking up on supplies and treading carefully while in the streets. For now, we're just trying to get back as much as possible to our pre-election normal and hope that rumors of coming civil war are just that.

Rebecca Sargent is the editor of A Peace of Conflict and currently lives in Côte D'Ivoire, West Africa, pursuing human rights research. Follow her on Twitter.

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