ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s constitutional council threw out challenges to the outcome of last week’s first-round presidential vote on Saturday, sending President Laurent Gbagbo and a rival into a run-off later this month.
The much-delayed vote aims to end deadlock in the West African nation, split by a 2002-2003 civil war, and restore the stability needed to reform its once-thriving economy. Investment in its cocoa industry, the world’s largest, has been in slow decline for years.
The decision of the council, presided over by a political ally of Gbagbo, came just hours after the main opposition parties demanded a recount, citing blatant irregularities.
Upholding the result, council president Paul Yao N’Dre also named November 21 as the date for the decisive second round between Gbagbo and second-placed Alassane Ouattara — a week earlier than previously scheduled.
“The tallies of individual polling stations do not show any irregularity which could undermine the credibility of the vote and affect the results overall,” N’Dre said in a public ruling.
The council confirmed Gbagbo’s preliminary score of 38.04 percent of the vote and Ouattara’s 32.07 percent. A second round is needed because no candidate won an absolute majority.
“Obviously there is nothing more we can do. We will consider our next steps,” said Niamkey Koffi, spokesman for the PDCI party of third-placed Henri Konan Bedie, who had lodged a complaint on Wednesday even before all the results were in.
Most international observers judged the first round to be free and fair. But the RHDP opposition coalition — which includes Ouattara’s party — said earlier on Saturday it would lodge a file of complaints with the constitutional council.
RHDP spokesman Djedje Mady said irregularities included falsified records of tallies from polling stations, counting errors and the exclusion of results from whole constituencies.
“There are too many issues to allow this election to be seen as normal and worthy of a democracy,” Anaki Kobenan, a member of the RHDP coalition, told Reuters.
The RHDP complaint followed the challenge by Bedie, also a member of the RHDP, who got 25 percent of the vote. His supporters have conducted noisy protests, but fears of major violence between rival political factions have so far not been realised.
A key factor ahead of the November 21 second round will be who manages to secure the backing of Bedie’s supporters.
An existing alliance between the parties of Bedie and Ouattara may not be enough to ensure Ouattara gets their votes because some of Bedie’s supporters are seen as unwilling to vote for someone from the north, still in rebel hands since the war.
PDCI spokesman Koffi said the alliance with Ouattara’s party would continue but, asked whether the PDCI would give outright backing to Ouattara in the second round said: “It is too early to say that.”