ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The head of the U.N. mission to Ivory Coast said on Monday the country’s presidential election the day before had been conducted in a democratic atmosphere, despite isolated violence and disruptions.
The electoral commission is expected to announce partial results of the close election on Monday in an increasingly tense atmosphere with sporadic violence and both sides accusing the other of intimidation.
Residents in parts of the main city Abidjan reported gunfire overnight as international envoys encouraged incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara to accept the outcome of Sunday’s run-off vote.
The streets of Abidjan were calm on Monday, but there was less traffic. In Abobo, a Reuters witness saw a heavy presence of police and soldiers guarding the roundabout that was the scene of weekend clashes.
U.N. mission chief Y.J. Choi noted violent incidents during campaigning and on voting day but said voting had gone well.
“The second round of the election was ... generally conducted in a democratic climate,” he told a news conference. “I have no doubt that the will of the Ivorian people, as expressed yesterday, will be respected.”
While the election is meant to draw a line under nearly a decade of political crisis and economic stagnation, it has triggered unrest and tensions in the world’s biggest cocoa grower, still split in two after a 2002-2003 war.
“Contrary to the first round which pleased all the observers, the second round has come to demonstrate the long and difficult road we still have to negotiate to bring peace back,” an editorial in the state-owned Fraternite Matin daily said.
“The reunification of the country remains an aspiration.”
Five members of the security forces were killed in the west of the country shortly before vote counting got under way, two security officials and Gbagbo’s campaign director said. At least seven other people have been killed in the run-up to the vote.
The opposition and ruling parties have exchanged accusations of intimidation in each other’s areas during voting. Gbagbo’s camp said it will lodge complaints with the country’s top court and Ouattara’s campaign complained of systematic intimidation.
The electoral commission is under pressure to announce results as soon as they come in from across the country, and has said it will start giving partial results later on Monday.
Amadou Soumahoro, vice president of the election commission, said reports of people being blocked from voting were localised.
Traders in London cited the tensions in Ivory Coast as a factor as cocoa futures rose, with March up $29 at $2,823 a tonne in early trade on Monday.
That was despite a pre-poll surge in supply to the country’s two main ports of around 80,000 tonnes, exporters estimated, taking arrivals to 412,000 tonnes since the start of the season in October.
“Because of the election, no one wanted to be holding any stock and delivered all,” said the head of a European firm.
The election is meant to heal ethnic and regional divisions between north and south that lay behind the war. But the neck and neck battle between Gbagbo, a southerner, and Ouattara, a northerner whose support lies mostly in the rebel-held north, has merely seemed to highlight those divisions.
As polls closed, groups of youths gathered at polling stations saying they wanted to prevent rivals stealing ballots.
“The security forces were everywhere in Abobo last night. As the night went on, the tension mounted,” said Yves Doumbia, an official in the mayor’s office in a pro-Ouattara neighbourhood.
Observers said turnout was 65-70 percent, down from the first round when over 80 percent of 5.7 million voters turned out. Observers also said they received reports of roadblocks, tension in the polling booths and a lack of materials.
“Given the history of this place there is every reason to be concerned but it also ought to be manageable,” said an international observer who could not be named.
“You have a large international presence and everybody, the UN, AU (African Union) and donors, on the same page.”
Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Ange Aboa; editing by Janet Lawrence