ABIDJAN (Reuters) - President Laurent Gbagbo’s party has asked the top legal body in Ivory Coast and the election commission to cancel still unpublished results from a poll it says rebels rigged for rival Alassane Ouattara.
Allies of Ouattara, a northerner who denies links with the rebellion that split the country in two, say Gbagbo is stalling the publication of results because he knows he has lost and that taking complaints to the Constitutional Council after blocking the electoral commission from releasing them would be illegal.
The Constitutional Council must sign off on the election results but Gbagbo’s rivals complain it is biased as it is headed by a Paul Yao N’Dre, a staunch Gbagbo ally.
Despite pressure from foreign governments, the electoral commission missed a Wednesday deadline to publish results of the disputed poll. The entire election could be cancelled if Gbagbo’s complaints are upheld by the council.
The run-off vote in the world’s top cocoa grower was meant to cap the process of reuniting the country, but has stoked deep divisions. The United Nations warned politicians late on Wednesday they could be held responsible for any violence.
Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Gbagbo’s campaign chief, has said that rebel-led intimidation made voting impossible for Gbagbo supporters in the north, which is still run by rebels.
“It is because of all these irregularities that we have lodged a request to cancel votes ... firstly with the Independent Election Commission and then with the Constitutional Council,” N’guessan said on state television late on Wednesday.
Election experts say that the body can only either approve or cancel the entire vote — Gbagbo’s party previously called for an annulment of results only in four pro-Ouattara regions.
Ouattara said the delay over the results was “unacceptable” and called on Gbagbo to respect them, but did not claim victory.
Albert Mabri, a spokesman for Ouattara’s campaign, said taking complaints to the court before the election commission had announced results was illegal.
Resisting pressure from the U.N., the U.S. and former colonial power France, the head of the poll body said on state television that the commission was still not ready to publish.
“We haven’t finished our work,” electoral commission chief Youssouf Bakayoko said on state television.
Pro-Gbagbo commission members disrupted a first reading on Tuesday, tearing up results as the spokesman tried to read them.
The U.N. mission in Ivory Coast has noted violence and intimidation but said the vote overall was democratic. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the world body “would safeguard the electoral process so that the will of the Ivorian people as expressed in the election will be respected.”
But the U.N.’s top rights body also issued a warning.
“Radical political statements have created an environment that risks stimulating violence across the country, and in some areas already appear to be the main cause of inter-communal clashes,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement.
Pillay warned the presidential candidates “they may be held accountable for any violence committed in their name.”
State television announced an overnight curfew due to end on Thursday had been extended until Sunday.
Cocoa futures spiked on Tuesday, after many Ivorian exporters fearful of possible street violence suspended trade but those gains were wiped out on Wednesday.
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 dispute has reopened the north-south divisions that caused the war and violence is feared if it is not resolved.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip)
Writing by David Lewis; editing by Michael Roddy