ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The United Nations’ top official in Ivory Coast urged rival candidates on Monday to accept the outcome of a long-delayed presidential election which passed off peacefully with a high turnout.
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 has prevented reform and forced six postponements of elections to date.
The national election commission has until Wednesday to tally and announce votes from across the country, after which there are fears that losing candidates could reject the result and call their supporters onto the streets.
“I cannot see how a political party or a candidate or a group can defy the will that the Ivorian people have so clearly expressed,” UN mission chief Y.J. Choi said of a turnout rate which observers have put at about 70 percent.
“Within the specific framework of my certification mandate, which I define as safeguarding the result of the vote, I shall ensure that their will prevails,” he said in a statement.
The United Nations has some 9,500 troops in Ivory Coast who with local forces have been securing the election process.
Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo’s main rivals are Henri Konan Bedie, an ex-president ousted in a 1999 coup, and Alassane Ouattara, a former prime minister and IMF official. Analysts expect a run-off next month between the top two candidates.
“This is a huge test of the election commission’s capacity,” one international observer said of the logistical challenges for authorities of reliably collating votes from those of the 5.7 million registered voters who took part.
Market reaction so far was muted, with the yield on Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion Eurobond barely changed at just over 10 percent. Cocoa futures in New York were flat at $2,799 a tonne.
“The more the political situation returns to normal in Ivory Coast, the better it will be for the cocoa sector,” one European trader in the physical market said, noting there was unlikely to be any short-term impact on prices.
All three main contenders said they were so far happy with the vote and held post-election events overnight during which they tallied results streaming in from their representatives.
Ballot papers are now being transferred to the main city of Abidjan by U.N. peacekeepers, who will also be carrying out an audit of the counting process.
There are few differences between the key policy ideas put forward by the main candidates, but a successful poll is seen as essential for rekindling investment and enacting reforms to the cocoa sector, which accounts for about a third of global supply.
“Will (candidates) be able to show the same level of respect that the voters have shown them so far? This is the key concern that Ivory Coast’s population and observers have,” Fraternite Matin, a daily newspaper, said in an editorial on Monday, a public holiday.