News / Africa

Voters in Ivory Coast Choosing New President

Long-delayed poll is meant to reunite the country eight years after the start of civil war

An unidentified man reacts to a campaign poster for incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, as presidential campaigning kicked off 15 Oct 2010 in Abidjan
An unidentified man reacts to a campaign poster for incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, as presidential campaigning kicked off 15 Oct 2010 in Abidjan

Voters in Ivory Coast are choosing a new president in a long-delayed poll that is meant to reunite the country eight years after the start of civil war.  

Many polling stations in Abidjan opened late, with long lines of increasingly-agitated voters pushing against gates guarded by members of a special security force.

Former Ghanaian President John Kufour is an observer for this poll.  He came to the Djibi 3 primary school to see how voting was going.  But three hours after polling was to begin, nothing had happened because the electoral commission representative was late.

"I have an uneasy feeling," Mr. Kufour said. "The crowd is getting restive.  I do not understand why it is taking so long.  People who are put in charge should do their work responsibly for the good of the public."

Crowds in Ivory Coast take part in campaigning ahead of Sunday's presidential election.
Crowds in Ivory Coast take part in campaigning ahead of Sunday's presidential election.

Voting eventually got under way, and once the gates opened and lines reformed inside the compound, the process appeared to run smoothly. Voters had their electoral cards checked against the voter roll.  Each person got a long paper ballot with fourteen candidate names, photos, and symbols which they marked behind a white cardboard partition before dropping in a clear plastic box.

Voters then signed the registry to show they had cast their ballot and dipped their finger in purple ink to prevent them from voting again.

Election observer John Stremlau is the vice president for peace programs at the Carter Center.

"We are concerned about the delay in opening," he said. "That should not happen.  But it does happen from time to time.  It is too early, as the president said, to draw any general conclusions, but we have had an exposure now that does merit some attention because people deserve to get their vote counted properly."

This is the first Ivory Coast election in wjhich more women are registered to vote than men.

Minata Ouattara says she voted for former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

She says Ouattara is the right man for the situation and has the solutions to solve the country's problems, because he has many programs specifically targeting women including free maternity care which will benefit both women and their children.

Agnes Brou says she voted for former president Henri Konan Bedie.

Brou says Bedie truly has the qualities to be the head of state.  When he was president, Brou says, there were more jobs for everyone.  Bedie came to power following the death of Ivory Coast's founding father Felix Houphouet-Boigny in 1993.  But he was toppled in a military coup six years later, so Brou says he did not finish the work he began.

Agnes Ossiry says she voted to re-elect President Laurent Gbagbo.
Ossiry says of all the candidates, President Gbagbo is the best.  In the past eight years of crisis, civil servants were still paid their salaries despite all the problems.  That, she says, is truly an exemplary president.  He is the best candidate.

Results from more than 20,000 polling stations are expected within three days.  If no one wins an outright majority in this first round, there will be a second-round runoff between the top two finishers.

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