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President of Ivory Coast sweeps elections boycotted by opposition

Alassane Ouattara and his wife Dominique Ouattara upon their arrival at an Abidjan polling station last Saturday during the elections.ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

The president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, has won the elections held in this African country last Saturday with 94.27% of the votes, according to the independent electoral commission (CEI), who also indicated that the rate participation had been 53.90%. This broad victory is explained by the boycott of the two main opposition candidates, Henri Konan Bédié and Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who urged their supporters not to participate in an election that they described as “mock electoral” and that they flatly rejected by the candidacy for a third term of Ouattara, something prohibited in the Constitution. Both have announced the creation of a national transition council in defiance of the Ivorian authorities.

“Therefore, Alassane Ouattara has been elected President of the Republic.” With these words, the president of the CEI, Ibrahime Coulibaly-Kuibiert, concluded the electoral recount at dawn this Tuesday and opened a period of enormous uncertainty in the Ivory Coast. However, it also recognized that 4,780 voting centers had not been able to open their doors due to barricades and incidents, out of a total of 22,381, and that, therefore, 1,428,641 voters, 19% of the census, were unable to exercise their right to vote. From now on, the CEI must transmit these results to the Constitutional Court for its final validation, pending possible appeals from the opposition.

The observation missions of the African Union (AU) and the Economic Commission of West African States (Cedeao) approved the elections and even considered them “globally satisfactory,” said the AU, despite acknowledging the existence of serious incidents. However, several civil society organizations were much more critical of the electoral process. “The political and security context has not allowed to organize a competitive and credible presidential election,” said the Carter Center in a statement. For his part, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, expressed on Tuesday his “deep concern about the tensions, provocations and incitements to hatred that prevailed and persist around these elections” and called for dialogue.

The candidacy of Ouattara, 78 years old and in power since 2011, was validated by the Constitutional Court when considering that the reform of the Magna Carta approved in 2016 put the scoreboard of mandates to zero. The opposition, however, disagrees and maintains its strategy of “civil disobedience”: it considers that the elections are not valid and that Ouattara’s mandate expired on October 31. This Monday, Pascal Affi N’Guessan, leader of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), announced the creation of a national transition council chaired by Henri Konan Bédié, candidate of the Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI). Their objective is to create a transitional government for which they ask for the support of the international community.

The fear that runs through Côte d’Ivoire is that there will be new acts of violence between followers of both sides or with the forces of order. Since Ouattara announced his candidacy in August until the day of the elections, at least 30 deaths have been registered. On election day, the authorities recognized five dead and four other people, members of the same family, died in Toumodi this Sunday in a fire caused by the protests. Many roads in the country are blocked by makeshift barricades, and incidents and clashes occur almost daily. Shots were heard in Abidjan on Monday near the homes of top opposition leaders.

Alassane Ouattara, an economist who became the first African deputy director of the International Monetary Fund, came to power in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011 after tight elections against his rival, then-President Laurent Gbagbo. Although the Constitutional Court awarded victory to the latter, Ouattara was proclaimed president thanks to the support of the international community and an armed rebellion that had the support of French and United Nations troops stationed in Abidjan. The clashes cost the lives of 3,000 people. In recent years, Côte d’Ivoire has maintained positive economic dynamism, but the reconciliation of the two sides in conflict in that conflict remains a pending issue.