ABIDJAN (Reuters) - President Laurent Gbagbo’s party accused the rebels in the north of Ivory Coast on Wednesday of trying to steal a presidential run-off on behalf of the opposition and rejected still unpublished results.
As international pressure grew on Ivory Coast to release the results of its disputed presidential poll before Wednesday’s deadline, Gbagbo’s camp complained of rebel-led intimidation and said they would contest a vote that rival Alassane Ouattara’s party say has given him a clear win.
Allies of Ouattara, a northerner who denies having anything to do with the 2002-2003 rebellion that split the country, have said Gbagbo is halting publication because he knows he has lost.
“We didn’t lose,” Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Gbagbo’s campaign chief told journalists. “We have requested for a cancellation of the results in several regions of the north where clearly there was no vote, but on the contrary a masquerade to organise electoral fraud for the benefit of Alassane Ouattara.”
He said no poll would be fair while rebels sympathetic to Ouattara ran half the country. Asked why Gbagbo’s camp accepted a poll under those conditions, he said: “you can’t ask someone who’s house is burgled why they moved into that neighbourhood.”
Tensions over a poll aimed at stabilising the world’s top cocoa grower turned to farce at a news conference late on Tuesday as pro-Gbagbo members of the election commission tore up results even as the body’s spokesman tried to read them out.
N’Guessan accused commission senior officials of attempting to publish the results before a consensus was reached and spoke of intimidation by rebels armed with rocket launchers.
“The victory of Alassane Ouattara is the raison d’etre of the New Forces,” he said.
It is not clear what will happen if Gbagbo’s camp cannot persuade the electoral commission to annul northern votes or if no results are released by the deadline on Wednesday night, but the constitutional council must approve any final ruling.
Constitutional council President Paul Yao N’Dre is a staunch Gbagbo ally and member of his party. He overruled opposition first round challenges within three days of provisional results.
“The results must be published today,” urged Michele Alliot-Marie, foreign minister of ex-colonial power France.
“What I hope is that Ivory Coast, which has always been a model of democracy in Africa, will ... revive that image with calm surrounding the results,” she told French Europe 1 radio.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday called for calm: “We strongly urge candidates to allow the counting and announcement of the results to take place without interference and to respect the results that are announced,” she said.
Cocoa futures spiked on Tuesday, after many Ivorian exporters fearful of possible street violence suspended trade.
Cocoa futures in London ended up 40 pounds or 2.7 percent at 1,895 pounds a tonne on Tuesday, but they reversed most of those gains by 1334 on Wednesday, falling 38 pounds.
The yield on Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion Eurobond has ticked slightly higher, reaching 10.8 percent compared to its pre-vote levels of just below 10 percent.
The streets of the economic capital Abidjan were quiet.
The vote was meant to end the process of reunifying what used to be one of West Africa’s most stable economies, but it has also reopened the north-south divisions that caused the rebellion.
Both camps can mobilise rival supporters onto the streets. Five members of the security forces and at least seven others were killed in violence before the vote, according to reports.
Alliot-Marie said there was no direct threat hanging over the 12,000-strong French expatriate community but 900 French troops France on alert would be able to protect them.
U.N. mission chief Y.J. Choi has endorsed the vote as broadly democratic despite the violence and some evidence of irregularities. The election body has said turnout was about 70 percent, down from more than 80 percent in the first round.
Gbagbo led after the first round with 38 percent of the vote compared to ex-IMF official Ouattara’s 32 percent score. But Ouattara received public endorsement from third-placed Henri Konan Bedie, who picked up 25 percent in the first round.
Additional reporting by Vicky Buffery in Paris; Writing by Mark John and Tim Cocks; editing by Ron Askew