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Africa

Turnout decisive in Ivory Coast vote

Votes are being counted in an election in Ivory Coast seen as crucial to national recovery from years of violence and upheaval. President Alassane Ouattara is hoping for re-election amid a partial opposition boycott.

Sunday's (25.10.2015) poll in Ivory Coast is regarded as a key test of the West African nation's return to stability. A disputed election in 2010 unleashed weeks of armed violence which claimed some 3,000 lives.

President Alassane Ouattara, whose leadership has helped Ivory Coast re-emerge as rising economic star on the African continent, is the favorite to win this 2015 election.

The World Bank says the Ivorian economy has grown by an average of nine percent per year over the last three years.

"We must ensure that we emerge from this election with peace and serenity," Ouattara said after voting in Abidjan.

There are, however, concerns that a boycott by part of the opposition, coupled with voter apathy, could lead to a low turnout.

Voting extended

Karim Konate, a voter in the central city of Bouake, complained that a polling station opened five hours late. "This looks like sabotage. Some voters even left [without casting ballots]," he told AFP.

But Solange Kone, an election monitor with the Peace-CI civil society elections observers project, told DW's French for Africa service that at the polling station she visited "voters were not encountering any particular difficulties."

President Alassane Ouattara

President Alassane Ouattara: tipped to win Sunday's election

Voting was extended by two hours at polling stations which had opened late.

80 percent of registered voters cast ballots in 2010 and while Outtara said he was confident of a high turnout this time, most voters and observers said the crowds were smaller on Sunday.

Ouattara's main challenger is former prime minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan from a breakaway faction of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), the party of ex-President Lauren Gbagbo.

After the 2010 poll, Gbagbo refused to concede defeat to Ouattara, who had been declared the winner. Ouatarra was finally inaugurated in 2011 and Gbagbo was ousted by military force with backing from France.

Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court over his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity.

Hardliners call for boycott

Ouatarra initially faced nine challengers for the presidency in this latest poll, but three pulled out ahead of polling day.

They included former prime minister Charles Konan Banny who dropped out on Friday citing "serious irregularities"

Their departure came after FPI hardliners called for a boycott of the poll.

N'Guessan believes they are endagering FPI's future. He has also criticised Ouattara for failing to foster post-war reconciliation.

Amid such tensions, a high turnout would be crucial in helping to legitimize Ouattara's mandate if he is elected as expected.

The rights group Amnesty International has criticized Ouattara for "arbitrary arrests" of opponents before the vote, which it said had created "a climate of fear that compromises the exercise of free expression."

Simeon Kouadio Konan is an independent candidate running for the presidency. After casting his ballot, he told the media that Sunday was an important day following the disappointment and tragedy of 2010. "We have one last opportunity to get out of this crisis," he said.

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