The president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commission told VOA Ivory Coast’s peace and stability is critical to the sub-region’s burgeoning economic development and strong democratic credentials.
Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, who observed Ivory Coast’s presidential run-off vote, also urged both President Laurent Gbagbo and his challenger, former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, to accept the results of Sunday’s election.
“The impression is that it has been calm in most places. There have been rumors of incidents in a few (areas) and that is not good enough. One would have thought that we would do it all without violence, but that has not been so. However, I think that most of the voting would stand and we will, in a few days time, know the results,” he said.
Millions of Ivorians cast ballots Sunday in an election designed to reunite the country divided by a civil war eight years ago. The days leading up to the runoff were marred by deadly street violence and a dispute over a nighttime curfew.
Ambassador Gbeho said his organization continues to encourage both candidates to ensure the country’s prevailing peace is not compromised.
“The ECOWAS mediator, who is President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, spent the whole day here talking to all the candidates, encouraging them to restrain their followers and getting them to agree that they will accept the results,” said Ambassador Gbeho.
“He did a yeoman’s job because, after his visit here, the political temperature lowered. Tension came down allowing for a good process today.”
The campaign for the runoff was marked by aggressive rhetoric and several outbreaks of fighting between Gbagbo and Ouattara supporters. Three people died in a clash between police and demonstrators in Abidjan on Saturday.
Last week, Ambassador Gbeho among other West African sub-regional leaders, launched an appeal for calm ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off vote.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement Saturday, President Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara appealed for calm and promised to accept the election results.
The first-round election in October passed peacefully with President Gbagbo winning 38 percent of the vote and Mr. Ouattara taking 32 percent.
Sunday's runoff hinges on which candidate could pick up the 25 percent of voters who backed the first vote’s third-place finisher, former president Henri Konan Bedie.