Ivory Coast poll overturned, Gbagbo declared winner

IVORY Coast’s Constitutional Council has overturned earlier poll results and declared President Laurent Gbagbo the winner of Sunday’s run-off.

Friday, the electoral commission head said opposition candidate, Alassane Ouattara, had defeated Mr. Gbagbo.

But the United Nations (UN) mission in Ivory Coast has said even if complaints of fraud are upheld, Mr. Ouattara should still win.

The presidential poll was intended to reunify the world’s largest cocoa producer after a civil war in 2002.

The two candidates represent the two sides of the north-south divide that exists religiously, culturally and administratively, with the northern half still controlled in parts by the former rebels.

Paul Yao N’Dre, chairman of the Constitutional Council, which validates election results, said Mr. Gbagbo had won a little more than 51% of the votes.

He said results in seven regions in the north, where Mr. Ouattara draws most of his support, had been annulled.

“The irregularities are of such a nature that they invalidate the vote,” AFP news agency quotes Mr. N’Dre, an ally of President Gbagbo, as saying on national television.

The head of the electoral commission had said Mr. Gbagbo won 46% of ballots cast.

The BBC’s John James in the main city of Abidjan says the UN peace mission in the country has a role in certifying the election results.

Laurent Gbagbo was first elected president in 2000 on a five-year mandate. It said it had received reports of violence in parts of the west and north on election day, but that overall, the voting seemed to be peaceful and any irregularities did not overturn Mr. Ouattara’s lead.

Reports say the Constitutional Council’s decision has come as a shock to many, especially the opposition.

According to AP news agency, protesters have taken to the streets of Abidjan, burning tyres, throwing chunks of concrete and tearing down posters.

Yesterday evening, the military closed the country’s borders and international news sources were suspended.

Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed concern over the development in Ivory Coast.

President Jonathan, who is also the chairman of Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), has appealed to all parties involved to respect and fully implement the verdict of the people as declared by the electoral umpire.

In a press statement on the political situation in Cote D’Ivoire, signed by the president himself and made available to State House correspondents, the President assured the people that ECOWAS, alongside African Union and the United States, will work together to ensure that there is peace in Cote D’Ivoire.

He also commended them for the successful conduct of the election runoff.

The staement reads: “The Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, welcomed the successful conduct of the presidential election runoff in the Republic of Cote D’Ivoire on Sunday, November 28, 2010 between the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and the opposition leader, former Prime Minister Alassane Quattara. The ECOWAS Chairman, however, expressed grave concerns with the delay in validating the results of the election.

“Conscious of constitutional processes in announcing the winner, President Jonathan urges all parties involved in the current democratic process, including the final arbiter, which is the Constitutional Council, to respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission. Anything short of this will not be serving the interest of the people of Cote D’Ivoire or the future political stability of the country.

“Member states of ECOWAS and the international community strongly believe that all stakeholders, particularly the government of the day, will demonstrate the necessary statesmanship to respect the will of the people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission.

“On the other hand, the presidential candidates should urge their supporters to be calm and refrain from actions that will roll back the advances made in the democratic process.

“ECOWAS will fully cooperate with the African Union and the United Nations to ensure that there is peace in Cote D’Ivoire.”

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