The Chairman of Ivory Coast’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Youssouf Bakayoko Thursday afternoon declared Alassane Ouattara winner of the West African country’s presidential election. His declaration, however, was made several hours after the end of the legal deadline to announce the election results. While many believe that the results were deliberately delayed, President of the Constitutional Council, Mr. Paul Yao N’Dré, appointed by President Laurent Gbagbo, says his institution will announce the final results.
The results of the Ivorian presidential elections announced by Chairman of Ivory Coast’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), Youssouf Bakayoko, Thursday afternoon, declaring Alassane Ouattara winner with 54, 1% of the vote and 45.9% for the sitting President Laurent Gbagbo has been dismissed by Paul Yao N’Dré, President of the Constitutional Council.
Speaking on Radio France International a few minutes before the CEI Chairman’s announcement, Paul Yao N’Dré, who was appointed by President Laurent Gbagbo, said that his institution “will announce the final results” in a period of at least seven days as members of the CEI were unable to reach a consensus before the end of the legal deadline to announce the results.
Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko’s announcement was relayed by the French media during Mr. Paul Yao N’Dré’s interview on the Ivorian National Television. After his announcement, Youssouf Bakayoko was whisked away by UN peacekeepers, according to French newspaper, Liberation.
Seeking to “clarify” the roles of the CEI and the Constitutional Council in the electoral process, Mr. Paul Yao N’Dré’s said: “In this case, the CEI was supposed to announce the interim results by midnight Wednesday, 1 December 2010 at the latest. As a result of divergence in what concerns the tally from certain regions, the CEI was unable to announce the preliminary results. The Constitutional Council, which is in charge of electoral litigation, sees itself charged with settling the dispute and declaring the final results of the presidential election.”
Observers argue that Paul Yao N’Dré’s announcement came after calculated efforts were made to delay the CEI’s three day legal limit to declare the results. The CEI’s inability to meet the legal deadline of midnight Wednesday to release the results means that it is now the Constitutional Council’s responsibility to decide on the legality of the election. On whether the Constitutional Council, under Mr. Laurent Gbagbo’s appointee, would accept or announce the same results, many Ivorians are not certain.
Meanwhile, Tension has been rising in the main city of Abidjan as Ivorians await for the election dispute to be resolved. Supporters of Mr. Ouattara say eight people were killed when masked gunmen attacked the candidate’s headquarters late Wednesday.
Witnesses and party officials tell VOA that about 45 men in masks stormed the office in the Abidjan district of Yopougon shortly before midnight. Correspondent Scott Stearns reports seeing blood on the floor, broken windows, and overturned furniture during a visit to the office Thursday.
International observers say Sunday’s runoff was generally free and fair, though the U.S.-based Carter Center reported election day abuses that included ballot box stealing and destruction of voting materials.
This was Ivory Coast’s first presidential election in 10 years. A 2002 civil war split the country in two, leaving rebels in control of the north and the government in control of the south.
The country has struggled to organize an election despite a 2007 peace deal that made former rebel leader Guillame Soro prime minister.
President Gbagbo’s term officially ended in 2005, but he has stayed in office while disputes that postponed the election were ironed out.
The first round of voting in October passed peacefully, with Mr. Gbagbo winning 38 percent and Mr. Ouattara finishing second with 32 percent. Mr. Ouattara later won the endorsement of the third-place finisher, former President Henri Konan Bedie.