ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast will hold the decisive second round of its long-delayed presidential election on November 28, a week later than previously announced, prime minister Guillaume Soro announced on Tuesday.
The vote is aimed at ending the years of political deadlock that have discouraged investment in the top cocoa grower since a 2002-2003 civil war divided it into a government-controlled south and rebel-held north.
Results of an October 31 first round put incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo on 38 percent and challenger Alsassane Ouattara on 32 percent with a voter turnout of about 80 percent, one of the highest seen in a genuinely multi-party African election.
“For practical, technical and equipment reasons, the independent electoral commission has asked for an extra week to prepare the election in the best possible conditions,” Soro told a news conference.
The postponement puts the election back to the initial date proposed for the vote before the constitutional council at the weekend surprised observers by naming November 21 for the vote.
“It’s a good thing if it is to better prepare the election but as we saw in Guinea postponements can lead to problems,” said DaMina Advisors chief analyst Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, referring to tensions that built up in Ivory Coast’s neighbour over a presidential election that finally happened on Sunday.
“It gives tensions that bit longer to simmer. In some sense the earlier you get these votes out of the way the better.”
Traders say the market has yet to take final judgment on whether Ivory Coast is finally managing to put its chaotic past behind it, and international cocoa prices have yet to react clearly either way to the holding of elections.
The country’s $2.3 billion 2032 Eurobond has traded with a yield of just under 10 percent since the October 31 first round passed off peacefully.
A potentially decisive factor in the run-off will be which candidate can attract most of the votes of third-placed candidate Henri Konan Bedie, who scored 25 percent.
Despite an explicit call from Bedie for his supporters to back Ouattara, analysts say that many may be loath to vote for a northern candidate who is perceived to be close to the rebellion, and may instead choose Gbagbo.
Patrick N’Gouan, head of the Ivorian Civil Society Convention, urged voters not to vote along tribal or regional lines but to look at the two candidates’ policies.
“We ask voters to shake off the mindset of an electorate trapped by tribalism, regionalism, religious ties or patronage and to vote in the interest of the country and according to the manifestos of the candidates,” he said in a statement.