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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The first round of elections on Oct. 31 went fairly smoothly, with LMP-party candidate Gbagbo winning with 38 percent, RDR candidate Ouattara attaining 32 percent and PDCI candidate Henri Bedie winning 25 percent of the vote. The aliance of former rivals PDCI and RDR was put into action for the second round through their common party, RHDP, with Ouattara promising to elect a PDCI prime minister should he win. In return, Bedie gave his full public support to Ouattara, ensuring the vote of many, mostly Baoulé people, who otherwise would likely have voted for Gbagbo.

Ouattara, however, has instead severely angered many PDCI supporters by selecting Forces Nouvelles leader Guillaume Soro to the position of prime minister and minister of defense. Rumors abound in local media with stories of Bedie storming out of the protection of the Golf Hotel in anger. Others insist that his hasty departure has nothing to do with the selection and that he has, in fact, actually given his blessing to the new government, which he sees as only a temporary and tactical move to secure the country.

On Nov. 28, the second round of elections was marred by observations of serious election crimes, including the destruction of election materials, voter intimidation and ballot-box theft. The day before the election, protesters clashed with police; three people were shot dead, and seven were injured. Many people simply stayed home, and the long lines seen in the first round at each polling station were severely diminished.

Local and international media originally announced that, because of intimidation from both sides in different areas, voter turnout was down from the high 84 percent turnout of the first round to around only 70 percent. Days later, this reported number changed in the international media and CEI’s (the electoral commission) results.

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.