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Ivory Coast Court Challenges Poll Result Proclamation

Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Court challenged the authority of the country’s electoral commission to proclaim the results of Nov. 28 presidential election, after it named opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the winner.

Ouattara won 54.1 percent, or 2.5 million votes, while President Laurent Gbagbo received 45.9 percent, or 2.1 million, Youssouf Bakayoko, president of the electoral commission, said in a statement handed to reporters yesterday at a hotel in Abidjan, which Ouattara had been using as his campaign base. Voter turnout was 81.1 percent, Bakayoko said.

The commission “is not capable of giving the results” after it missed a deadline to announce the outcome within three days of the election, said Paul Yao N’Dre, president of the Constitutional Court, in a statement broadcast on state-controlled Radiodiffusion Television Ivoirienne. Both candidates traded accusations of intimidation and fraud on election day, which N’Dre said the court wanted to investigate before proclaiming its own outcome within the next seven days.

The United Nations “welcomed the announcement of the provisional results,” according to a statement published on the UN’s website. The current president of the Security Council, U.S. ambassador Susan Rice, said the commission’s declaration is “a crucial step for ensuring the validity and integrity of the electoral process.”

Divided Country

The election was meant to unite the world’s top cocoa grower, which has been divided into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south since a 2002 uprising. Supporters of Gbagbo, 65, hold Ouattara, 68, responsible for the revolt; a charge he denies. The rebels say they attempted to seize power because northerners were treated as second-class citizens.

Cocoa for March delivery climbed 31 pounds ($49), or 1.6 percent, to 1,954 pounds as of 10:15 a.m. in London, adding to yesterday’s gain of 3.2 percent.

“I ask all Ivorians, whether they voted for me or not, to face the challenges ahead together,” said Ouattara, a former prime minister and ex-deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Growth has averaged 1.1 percent in the eight years since the conflict started as the cocoa-dependent country missed out on the wave of foreign investment in Africa from nations such as China.

There is concern over whether “the stand-off will play out within the institutional framework, or will it move over on to the streets,” said Hannah Koep, Africa analyst with London- based Control Risks, in a phone interview yesterday.

Campaign Violence

The campaign was marred by violence that left several dead, including at least six people who were killed late on Dec. 1 at a Ouattara party office when unidentified gunmen entered the facility and opened fire.

“There is a very strong possibility that if things are not settled within the next couple of weeks, we could see an all-out breakout of violence,” said Oswald Felli, head of security and violent risk assessments with New York-based DaMina Advisors. Regional leaders, including Ghana’s President John Atta Mills and Burkina Faso leader Blaise Compaore may need to “push for a unity government with Ouattara as the number one, but with Gbagbo retaining some powers,” Felli said in a phone interview.

The International Criminal Court said it was monitoring the situation in Ivory Coast and that it would scrutinize all reported acts of violence.

“In light of recent clashes, I urge supporters of the candidates and security forces to refrain from violence,” Fatou Bensouda, the court’s deputy prosecutor, said in an e-mailed statement. “I encourage the political leaders to call on their supporters and fellow citizens to show restraint and avoid unrest.”

To contact to reporters on this story: Pauline Bax and Olivier Monnier in Abidjan via Accra at +233-302-258794 or

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