Pressure Grows On Ivory Coast To Issue Poll Result

Tensions over a poll aimed at stabilising the world’s top cocoa grower turned to farce at a news conference late on Tuesday as pro-Gbagbo members of the election commission tore up results even as the body’s spokesman tried to read them out.

Challenger Alassane Ouattara’s allies have said Gbagbo is preventing publication because he knows he has lost, while the president’s supporters say Gbagbo voters suffered widespread intimidation as they tried to cast their ballots in the north, still held by rebels after a 2002-2003 civil war.

“The results must be published today,” urged Michele Alliot-Marie, foreign minister of ex-colonial power France of a formal deadline for publication of all preliminary results within three days of Sunday’s run-off.

“What I hope is that Ivory Coast, which has always been a model of democracy in Africa, will in fact be able to keep and indeed revive that image with calm surrounding the results, which will be proclaimed,” she told French Europe 1 radio.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on “Ivorian leaders to act in a responsible and peaceful manner”.

“We strongly urge candidates to allow the counting and announcement of the results to take place without interference and to respect the results that are announced,” she said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

Cocoa futures have spiked higher over concerns that protracted unrest could disrupt supplies to the world market, and some Ivorian exporters have suspended trade for now.

The key March cocoa contract rose $52 to end at $2,807 per tonne in New York on Tuesday. London’s March contract gained 0.53 percent to 1,914 pounds in early Wednesday trade.

The yield on Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion Eurobond has ticked slightly higher, reaching 10.8 percent compared to its pre-vote levels of just below 10 percent.

Witnesses said the streets of the economic capital Abidjan were quiet early on Wednesday. Authorities in Ivory Coast have scheduled 1100 GMT for the release of partial results, with the total provisional score in theory due by the end of the day.

The vote was meant to end the process of reunifying what used to be one of West Africa’s most stable economies, but it has also reopened the north-south divisions that caused the war.

Both rival political camps are able to mobilise supporters onto the streets, and the campaign was marked by violence. Five members of the security forces and at least seven others were killed in violence before the vote, according to reports.

“We must understand that Ivory Coast is at a decisive point in its history,” Fraternite Matin, a government paper that has been credited for its independent reporting. “Keep a cool head despite our convictions,” the paper said in an editorial.

Alliot-Marie said there was no direct threat hanging over the 12,000-strong French expatriate community but France was on alert and would be able to rapidly intervene to protect them through some 900 French troops in the local U.N. force.

U.N. mission chief Y.J. Choi has endorsed the vote as broadly democratic despite the violence and some evidence of irregularities. The election body has said turnout was about 70 percent, down from more than 80 percent in the first round.

Gbagbo led after the first round with 38 percent of the vote compared to ex-IMF official Ouattara’s 32 percent score. But Ouattara received public endorsement from third-placed Henri Konan Bedie, who picked up 25 percent in the first round. Reuters