News / Africa

Presidential Voting Under Way in Ivory Coast

Voters, angry at polls not opening one hour after their scheduled start, break down a gate at Groupe Scolaire Saint Jeanne in the Abobo neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 28 Nov 2010
Voters, angry at polls not opening one hour after their scheduled start, break down a gate at Groupe Scolaire Saint Jeanne in the Abobo neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, 28 Nov 2010
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Voting is under way in Ivory Coast to choose a president in a runoff election that is meant to reunite the country after a brief civil war. There is an overnight curfew through Wednesday in the wake of pre-election violence.

Many polling stations in Abidjan opened late, in part, because the curfew expired just an hour before voting was set to begin.

President Laurent Gbagbo says he imposed the curfew to maintain order after at least three people were killed Saturday in clashes between riot police and supporters of former prime minister Alassane Ouattara.

Ouattara says the curfew is illegal, and is calling on his supporters to ignore it.

"We were concerned when we heard that a curfew would be imposed on the eve of election because, while security can be a concern to all of us, we want voters to be safe, we also don't want them to be impeded. And, we were concerned that this might cause voters to figure out they really couldn't get to the polls easily, that there could be knock-on effects on gasoline supplies and transport," said election observer and the vice president for peace programs at the U.S.-based Carter Center, John Stremlau. "And, it just raised a big question mark late in the game."

Stremlau says his observer team has been reassured by the relatively high voter turn-out it has seen so far, and is hoping the country successfully completes what he calls a critical election.

University student Akpele N'cho cast his vote Sunday morning.

N'cho says he hopes the vote reunifies the country and returns Ivory Coast's economy to its previous strength, because many opportunities were lost during the war. He says the vote should definitively re-establish peace.

Nurse Francoise Ariko says 10 years of conflict cannot continue.

Ariko voted in the first round and says she believes that voters today will choose someone who can raise up the country.

Ivory Coast's electoral commission says it will begin announcing preliminary results Sunday evening.

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