News / Africa

Gbagbo Rejects Pressure to Leave Power in Ivory Coast

West African leaders are calling on Laurent Gbagbo to step down as president of Ivory Coast, in favor of a former prime minister who won a vote that was certified by the United Nations.

Mr. Gbagbo appears determined to hold on to power in the face of international pressure.

Gbagbo spent much of the last decade joining fellow West African heads of state in trying to resolve regional issues, most recently military rule in Niger.

But Mr. Gbagbo is now on the outside, excluded from an emergency meeting of the Economic Community of West African States to discuss the political crisis in Ivory Coast.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan chairs the regional alliance. He says Mr. Gbagbo's former colleagues want him to yield power, without delay, because he lost last month's vote to former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

"We believe that, in a democratic election, the votes of the people must count," he said. "Where we have a democracy where the votes do not count, ECOWAS will no longer accept such a pseudo or false democracy.  And, we believe that the results declared by the electoral commission and accepted by the U.N. special representative there is the authentic one, and Ouattara is the person who we support as the president of Cote d'Ivoire."

Mr. Ouattara's claim to the presidency is based on the United Nations certification of electoral commission results that show him winning 54 percent of the vote. Mr. Gbagbo's claim to the presidency is based on Ivory Coast's constitutional council annulling as fraudulent nearly ten percent of all ballots cast, giving him 51 percent of the vote.

Both men have named new prime ministers and have the support of rival armed forces. Mr. Gbagbo is supported by senior military officers who control southern regions. Mr. Ouattara is supported by former rebels who control northern regions.

Mr. Gbagbo's rebuke by former colleagues and Ivory Coast's suspension from the regional alliance is not likely to change his approach to the political crisis. The constitutional council's decision is unappealable. Mr. Gbagbo is moving forward with a new cabinet and a new foreign minister, who has threatened to expel the United Nations special representative.

In the media blackout that has followed this vote, all foreign news broadcasts are suspended.  State-run television has made no mention of the original electoral commission results or calls from the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, France, the United States and Britain for Mr. Gbagbo to step down.

Instead, the national broadcaster is running a series of interviews with Gbagbo supporters.

Alcide Djedje, who is Mr. Gbagbo's new foreign minister, used his time on the nightly news to threaten the U.N. special representative here.

Djedje says the United Nations was meant to help Ivory Coast out of its crisis, not to interfere in its internal affairs.  He says this is the last time the U.N. can act in that fashion.   He says, if the U.N. special representative here continues to call Mr. Ouattara the winner of the election, he will be expelled.

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