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Ivory Coast awaits poll results

Katrin Gänsler / guOctober 27, 2015

Incumbent President Alassane Ouattara is tipped to win the presidential election in Ivory Coast, but results are not in yet. Still, one important albeit preliminary figure has been put out by the electoral commission.

Vote-counting preparations by the electoral commission. Photo: REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon
Image: Reuters/T. Gouegnon

The rumor mill is in full spin. Initial results for the Ivory Coast presidential election had been predicted for Monday afternoon (27.10.2015). A day later, people are still waiting, particularly the anxious observers in Abidjan, the country's commercial hub.

Two days after the polls, incumbent President Alassane Ouattara is still expected to win, because part of the opposition had called for a boycott in August. The remaining parties failed to agree on a candidate.

Although the final results are not in yet, one official figure has already been put out: voter turnout was about 60 percent.

In the run-up to the election, a reasonable voter turnout had been seen as crucial for Ouattara to claim legitimacy. In fact, his administration said that his mandate would depend on a healthy turnout.

The president's critics said the official turnout projection of 60-percent was "unrealistic" and called the vote a "parody. "In their opinion, many polling stations had remained more or less empty throughout the vote.

But Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who heads the observer team from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), disagreed. "I went out, and what I saw around would be something in the region of what we'd call 40 or 45," he said. "But that is in one location, in one area. Those who went out elsewhere found something that is quite different."

Incumbent President Alassane Ouattara casts his ballot. Photo: Katrin Gänsler
A healthy voter turnout is crucial for the president's mandateImage: DW/K. Gänsler

Nonetheless, the number of people who didn't turn out to vote had been expected to be fairly high. About 23 million people live in Ivory Coast, and 6.3 million of them had registered to vote in this election. But not all of them picked up their voting cards.

Fifty-year-old Mariame Koné, a mother of four, was one of those who did not vote. Because of the upheaval after the 2010 elections, she declined to use her real name. "I quite calmly stayed at home; I had something to eat and took a nap," she huffed almost scornfully. "I didn't vote, and I told my children they should stay. If there are any problems, I'm too weak to cope with them," she said, adding that until the end of the month she preferred to stay with her children.

The slender woman is a supporter of former President Laurent Gbagbo. She still stands by that position. "When I saw Gbagbo's proposals, I thought to myself: Fine, that helps the country," Mariame Koné said. "That's why I left the PDCI (Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire)," she explained, "his (Gbagbo's) vision was for the youth, and even for Africa."

Gbagbo had lost the run-off in 2010. When he refused to admit defeat, months of unrest ensued, and more than 3,000 people died. So presently there's a palpable sense of relief in Ivory Coast.

That there was no bloodshed was also good news for Imam Ibrahim Koné, the president of POECI, a civil-society election observer platform formed by 14 nongovernmental organizations. POECI had trained 755 election observers.

Seated in front of laptops, election observers monitoring the polls. Photo: Katrin Gänsler
POECI election observers are relieved that the poll was peacefulImage: DW/K. Gänsler

"Generally, I'm very pleased," Koné said. "Election day was quite calm. The atmosphere was not tense, and there were no clashes at the polling stations. People were able to cast their vote freely, after which they returned home."

Obasanjo, the head of the ECOWAS observer team, has come to a similar conclusion.

One thing the former head of state is particularly happy about is that no region attracted any negative attention, not even the West. For that area, in which there had once been many supporters of former President Gbagbo, people had been predicting a particularly large number of boycotters. However, Obasanjo concluded that, "In the western part of this country, and indeed in all parts of this county, the election took place peacefully, freely, fairly and acceptably."