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Turnout in Ivorian Presidential Election Near 80 Percent


Election officials start counting ballots in the first round of presidential elections in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010.

Election officials start counting ballots in the first round of presidential elections in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Sunday Oct. 31, 2010.

Nearly 80 percent of registered voters in Ivory Coast turned out for Sunday's presidential election. Early returns from overseas voters show a slight lead for the country's former prime minister.

Electoral commission vice president Mamadou Coulibaly says voter participation of nearly 80 percent in Sunday's election is a result that everyone involved in the electoral process should be proud of.

Young Jin Choi heads the United Nations observer mission here.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with President Laurent Gbagbo on Monday, Choi said such high voter participation is an example not only for the region and for Africa, but also for the rest of the world.

By law, the electoral commission has until Wednesday to release provisional results from the more than 20,000 polling stations.

Returns from expatriate voters in 15 countries show former prime minister Alassane Ouattara with a slight lead over President Gbagbo. Both are well ahead of former president Henri Konan Bedie. But fewer than 10,000 expatriate ballots in all are not statistically significant in a country with nearly six million registered voters.

If none of the 14 candidates wins more than half of the votes, the top two finishers will face off in a second round election. Analysts say it is important for each of the three main candidates to do well with his base to build a foundation for potential second-round coalitions with losing candidates.

Bedie and Ouattara already have pledged to back the other if either man faces President Gbagbo in a runoff.

The European Union and the U.S.-based Carter Center are expected to announce their preliminary reports on the fairness of the vote on Tuesday. There have been no major complaints from candidates in a vote that was conducted in government-controlled areas and parts of the north that are still under the command of a former rebel movement.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is calling on all parties and candidates to help maintain calm and pursue any complaints about results through legal channels.

The vote is meant to reunite the country eight years after the start of civil war.

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