Observers give Ivorian election thumbs up, turnout solid

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 26, 2015 10:12 AM

By Joe Bavier and Loucoumane Coulibaly

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Election observers gave Ivory Coast's presidential vote a clean bill of health on Monday and early estimates put participation at a healthy 60 percent, allaying fears poor turnout would mar the expected reelection of President Alassane Ouattara.

The late arrival of materials led the Independent Elections Commission (CEI) to extend voting in some polling stations by two hours on Sunday. Many of the computer tablets used to verify voters identities failed during the day.

However POECI, an Ivorian civil society organization that received backing from the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), said it did not expect the problems to affect the results of the election.

"Yesterday on voting day, there was dysfunction here and there, but it wasn't of a kind to really discredit the process," said Drissa Soulama, coordinator for POECI's parallel vote count. "So for us, the process was free and fair."

Election observers and diplomats said Sunday's vote, which is crucial to reassuring investors and turning the page on Ivory Coast's violent political past, was held without major incident.

There were concerns that many voters would stay at home because the outcome of the election was perceived to be in little doubt. Ouattara, who has led the West African nation to an economic revival in the wake of a decade-long crisis and a brief 2011 civil war, is heavily favored to win a second five-year term.

The vice-president of the Independent Electoral Commission, Sorou Kone, told reporters that the initial turnout estimate was 60 percent, though the figure would be refined as results gradually came in.

The commission was expected to begin announcing partial results on Monday afternoon.

Bertin Konan Kouadio, one of the six candidates seeking to unseat Ouattara, claimed that the process had been tainted by irregularities, including foreigners who had been caught attempting to vote.

"I warn Ouattara: he won't do to me what he has done to my predecessors and my elders; he won't succeed in stealing my victory," the candidate told journalists after casting his ballot.

Another candidate, Simeon Konan Kouadio, said his campaign had been informed of massive fraud during the election.

(Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Makini Brice)