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Opposition Claims Victory as Ivory Coast Counts Votes 

Workers of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) count ballots after the closure of the polling stations during the legislative elections, in Abidjan, on March 6, 2021.
Workers of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) count ballots after the closure of the polling stations during the legislative elections, in Abidjan, on March 6, 2021.

Ivory Coast's main opposition party on Sunday claimed victory in a legislative election in the West African nation, alleging that preliminary results were riddled with irregularities.

Saturday's vote was a key test of stability, four months after violence around a disputed presidential poll claimed 87 lives in the former French colony.

"We think we have around 128 seats with our allies" in the 255-seat National Assembly, said Niamkey Koffi, a top official in the centre-right Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI).

"Our concern is that the results may be manipulated," Koffi said at a press conference, warning the government against "any attempt to falsify" them.

The statement came after the independent electoral commission CEI announced early provisional results, which Koffi said were "strewn with fraud, tampering and manipulation."

By mid-afternoon the CEI had announced around one-third of the results, but not enough to indicate clear trends.

The opposition had boycotted the October presidential election, in which the incumbent Alassane Ouattara, 79, won a controversial third term with more than 94 percent of the vote.

Koffi alleged there were attempts to reverse results from Saturday's vote in several large cities including the political capital Yamassoukrou, the coastal resort of Grand-Bassam, and key districts of Abidjan.

Turnout had been a mere 20%, he added, citing "fear of violence."

Official turnout from the last legislative poll in 2016 was 34%.

Abidjan mayor Sylvestre Emmou, an opposition candidate, said that three people had been stabbed and injured in the economic capital on an otherwise calm day of voting Saturday, while election observers reported no other major incidents.

Shifting alliances

The PDCI, in an unprecedented move, forged an election alliance with the center-left coalition Together for Democracy and Solidarity (EDS), whose driving force is the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) of former president Laurent Gbagbo.

Their declared aim is to prevent Ouattara and his RHDP party from "consolidating absolute power" in the world's top cocoa grower, formerly a haven of peace and prosperity in troubled West Africa.

In the December 2016 poll, the RHDP and PDCI were allied, winning an absolute majority with 167 seats.

Last year's crisis shattered that deal.

Gbagbo's FPI, for its part, lifted a decade-old boycott of electoral politics in order to take part in Saturday's ballot, in which more than 1,500 candidates were vying for the votes of roughly seven million people.

Ouattara forced Gbagbo out of office in 2011 after a post-election civil war that claimed some 3,000 lives and left the country deeply split.

After his ouster, Gbagbo, now 75, was flown to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face war crimes charges arising from that conflict.

He was acquitted in January 2019 and is now living in Brussels pending the outcome of an appeal.

More recently, Ouattara has reached out to his old foe, and in a bid for "national reconciliation", issued Gbagbo two passports, one of them a diplomatic pass.