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November 28, 2010

Few Early Results from Ivory Coast Presidential Election

by Scott Stearns

Results of overseas votes give no real indication of shape of race as registered voters number more than four million

Ivory Coast's electoral commission released a handful of results from overseas voters in Sunday's presidential election as an overnight curfew remains in effect following violence that has killed at least six people.  

Electoral commission spokesman Bamba Yacouba announced a small number of votes from Ivorians living overseas.  The totals give no real indication of the shape of this race as they are only about 10,000 ballots in an election with more than four million registered voters.

Yacouba said more results will be released Tuesday.

Both President Laurent Gbagbo and former prime minister Alassane Ouattara say there were voting irregularities that prevented their supporters from getting to the polls.

Young-jin Choi is the United Nations Secretary General's special representative for Ivory Coast.

Choi says isolated incidents of violence contributed to Sunday's vote opening in an atmosphere of tension and passion.  Despite reports of sometimes violent incidents in the west and north of the country, Choi says overall this second-round runoff was conducted in a democratic climate.

There is an overnight curfew in effect from 7:00 pm to 6:00 am Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  President Gbagbo says it is meant to prevent interference with the transport of voting returns and to ensure security while people wait for those results.

Mr. Ouattara says the curfew is illegal and opens the door for officials to engage in electoral fraud.  He says President Gbagbo agreed to lift the curfew during joint talks with regional mediator, the Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore.

But President Gbagbo says that curfew will remain in place.

The president says he has heard people talking about how the curfew will be lifted, but in Ivory Coast there is only one person who can do that.  And that is him.  After observing election day violence, President Gbagbo says the curfew will be maintained.

Voter turn out in this second round appeared somewhat lower than in the first round of voting in which President Gbagbo finished just ahead of Mr. Ouattara.  Both men campaigned hard for the supporters of third-place finisher, former president Henri Konan Bedie.   

The electoral commission says it will begin releasing partial returns Monday.  It has until midnight Wednesday to name a final winner.