ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s ex-rebel Prime Minister Guillaume Soro appealed on Saturday to all candidates in Sunday’s presidential election to accept the declared result and put an end to the West African nation’s protracted crisis.
The race pitting President Laurent Gbagbo against main opposition challengers Henri Konan Bedie and Alassane Ouattara is likely to be close, and many Ivorians fear widespread street violence should a dispute flare up over the result.
The election is the first in a decade and is viewed as the best chance of restoring lasting peace to the world’s top cocoa grower after a 2002-3 war divided it into a government-controlled south and a rebel-controlled north.
“I’m launching an appeal to all political actors: the vote counting will be transparent and the candidates must promise to accept the result proclaimed by the electoral commission,” Soro told a news conference in the main city of Abidjan.
The elections are seen as vital to attracting investment back to what was once one of West Africa’s brightest prospects, and to reforming a cocoa sector that supplies over a third of the world market but is in decline.
Frontier-market investors will also be closely watching the results, which are likely to have an impact on Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion Eurobond, issued in April in exchange for defaulted debt.
“Downside risks to a peaceful electoral process cannot be discounted in the aftermath of the first round and after the second round, especially if Gbagbo loses the contest or opposition forces do not recognise the results of the vote,” Samir Gadio, emerging markets strategist at Standard Bank, said in a research note.
Foreign powers and the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which has 9,500 security forces deployed for the vote, are pressing all candidates to accept the result swiftly to prevent bloodshed.
“The loser must salute the winner and the winner must have humility in his victory to work with the loser, so we can get out of this crisis,” Soro said.
“We are getting out of this crisis united, we are getting out of it strong.”
Soro became leader of the New Forces rebels a few weeks after they launched a rebellion against President Laurent Gbagbo that failed to unseat him but enabled them to seize half the country.
Under a peace deal in 2007 he became transitional prime minister and took on an overseer role in the country’s slow return to reunification.
He quit as head of the New Forces rebels in August.