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Ouattara’s Party Widens Lead in Ivory Coast Parliament Vote

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s party increased its lead in the first legislative elections the world’s biggest cocoa producer has held in a decade, a contest the United Nations called a positive step toward national reconciliation.

Ouattara’s Rassemblement des Republicains had 47 seats, while the Parti Democratique de la Cote d’Ivoire, which supported the leader in the November 2010 presidential poll and is now part of a governing coalition, had 34 seats, according to the country’s electoral commission. Independent candidates had 17 seats and the ruling coalition, which fielded its own candidates, had 4. The National Assembly’s 255 seats were voted on in the Dec. 11 election.

The party of former leader Laurent Gbagbo, who faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court, boycotted the National Assembly vote. Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat in last year’s vote sparked five months of violence that killed as many as 3,000 people.

“This election is an important step towards the full restoration of constitutional order in Cote d’Ivoire and should contribute to national reconciliation,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement published on the UN’s website dated Dec. 12. Candidates should “preserve the peaceful atmosphere” as ballots are counted, he said.

Cocoa Price

Ouattara, 69, wants to guarantee farmers as much as 60 percent of the international cocoa price to spur investment and output of the chocolate ingredient. Those plans are part of wider measures in the industry, including dissolving regulatory bodies, required by the International Monetary Fund before it considers debt relief for the West African nation.

Gbagbo, 66, was charged at the ICC in The Hague last week after being captured in Abidjan in April when Ouattara’s forces, with support from United Nations and French troops, took over the city. Several members of Gbagbo’s Front Populaire Ivorien party, which had ruled for a decade, were arrested or left the country.

Some candidates, who are seen as “sympathizers” with the FPI, entered the election and may “conspire to form a critical swing block” in the legislature, according to Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, managing director with New York-based DaMina Advisors.

Ivory Coast’s economy is recovering from a civil war sparked by the post-election crisis that stalled output in the first quarter. The Finance Ministry projects economic expansion of 8.5 percent in 2012 from a 5.8 percent contraction this year. Better management of the economy may help the government resume interest payments on defaulted $2.3 billion Eurobonds in June, Norbert Kobenan, an aide to the finance minister, said Nov. 21.

The yield on the bonds, which the country defaulted on in January, fell 12 basis points to 14.187 by 11:43 a.m. in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. On Dec. 9, the price fell to the lowest since March, closing at 48.375 cents on the dollar.

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