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December 02, 2010

Ivory Coast Vote Results Overturned; President Declared Winner

by Scott Stearns

Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council says the country's incumbent president has been re-elected, overturning results from the electoral commission that show the president losing to a former prime minister. The United Nations believes the opposition candidate is still the winner.

Constitutional Council president Paul Yao N'Dre says President Laurent Gbagbo has won re-election.

N'Dre says the constitutional council annulled results from seven northern regions where it says supporters of former prime minister Alassane Ouattara engaged in electoral fraud.

The results annulled were enough to give President Gbagbo more than 51 percent of the vote, overturning totals released by the country's electoral commission that show Mr. Ouattara winning the vote with more than 54 percent of ballots.

The council's decision is expected to further worsen a security situation that has already seen at least 14 people killed in electoral violence. The country is under an overnight curfew. All its borders are closed. Foreign news broadcasts are suspended indefinitely.

In Abidjan's Abobo neighborhood Ouattara supporters blocked most major roads with tires and burning market stalls. Riot police with tear gas canisters stood opposite the barricades but, before the curfew, did not move to disperse the crowds.

Ouattara supporter Fani Mamourou says the constitutional council acted improperly.

Mamourou says all the votes the council eliminated were from regions favorable to Mr. Outtara, so he lost. It is not the normal procedure, Mamourou says. The council could have taken as long as one month to review all of the returns from polling stations.

Less than one kilometer from the burning barricades, President Gbagbo's supporters celebrated the constitutional council's decision.

Gbagbo supporters gathered around a low wooden table drinking red wine and toasting the president's re-election.

Serge Opoudje says Gbagbo supporters want a peaceful country and want to work together with their brothers who voted for Mr. Ouattara. They are our comrades, he says. We should all work together.

Ouattara campaign director Amadou Gon Coulibaly says the opposition will not accept the constitutional council's decision. He told reporters: "The Ivorian people have spoken, and Laurent Gbagbo is beaten."

Former rebels who still control the north of the country say they will not accept the change in election results either.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Friday also endorsed the provisional results, congratulating Mr. Ouattara as the country's president-elect and asking President Gbagbo to do his part for the good of the country and cooperate in a smooth political transition.

In a written statement, the secretary general urged all Ivorians to accept the certified outcome and to work together in a spirit of peace and reconciliation for stability and prosperity. He says those who incite or carry out violence will be held accountable.