ABIDJAN (Reuters) - European Union observers said they saw no signs of fraud during Ivory Coast’s election, but warned that logistical and procedural problems were delaying the results and risked fomenting suspicions of rigging.
The election body has said that partial results from Sunday’s poll, in which 80 percent of Ivory Coast’s 5.7 million people voted, would be published on Tuesday.
In his first statement since the election meant to end years of crisis in the West African cocoa producer, Cristian Dan Preda, head of the EU observation mission, said on Tuesday there had been no sign of violence or fraud during poll.
“There is, however, a problem with the transporting and the processing of these election documents,” he said. “It is not good enough to say that it was a historical record, that it was good that 80 percent turned out to vote.”
“The delay poses a problem. If things don’t move quickly, citizens will worry. There are all these rumours going around, and this is because of the lack of results,” he added.
The contest pitting President Laurent Gbagbo against main opposition challengers Henri Konan Bedie, an ex-president ousted in a 1999 coup, and Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister and IMF official, is likely to be very close, with no one winning outright and a run-off next month, analysts say.
Electoral commission (CEI) president Youssouf Bakayoko confirmed late on Monday that there had been some logistical delays with the results but sought to reassure voters by saying that some results would be published on Tuesday and the Wednesday deadline for a provisional final tally would be met.
A few thousand votes from Ivorians abroad have been published. Ballot papers from across the country were still being transferred to the main city of Abidjan by U.N. peacekeepers, who will also audit the counting.
None of the candidates, who will have their own tallies from witnesses, have so far claimed victory.
The EU’s Preda said 14 of his 90 observers had been blocked from monitoring the vote counting process and added Ivorians were understandably frustrated that figures were coming in from voters abroad, but not from voters at home.
Sunday’s vote in the world’s top cocoa grower is meant to reunite a country torn in two by a 2002-2003 civil war and whose economy suffered from political deadlock that forced six postponements of elections to date and prevented reform of a cocoa sector that feeds 40 percent of the world market.
Market reaction to the election has thus far been fairly muted. Cocoa futures rose $16 a tonne by 1300 GMT.
Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion Eurobond was trading below 9.794 percent for the first time since its launch.
“The sooner they give results the more it eases the tension. If they give results little by little, it allows people to be prepared,” independent analyst Gilles Yabi said.
Candidates were coming under growing international pressure to accept the results, amid fears of street violence should the result be disputed as in past polls. The United Nations and Ivory Coast’s former colonial master France both urged calm.
Y.J. Choi, the top U.N. official in Ivory Coast, has met all the candidates to try to ensure they accept the verdict. He has also said he was sure results would be published on time.
Writing by Tim Cocks and David Lewis; Additional reporting by Alain Amontchi and Tim Cocks in Abidjan, Ange Aboa in Gagnoa