France called today on Cote d’Ivoire to release the disputed results of its landmark presidential election “before tonight” and called on all parties to cooperate with the country’s electoral commission.
“It is essential that the Independent Electoral Commission announces the results within the planned timeframe, which is to say before this evening,” President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office said in a statement.
President Sarkozy called on “all Ivorian parties to cooperate with the commission so that it may accomplish its task without delay” and said that “the will of the Ivorian people must be fully respected.”
The poll results were delayed as backers of President Laurent Gbagbo accused the opposition of fraud and pushed to scrap votes in several regions of the West African state that gained its independence from France in 1960.
The call came after supporters of President Gbagbo physically prevented electoral officials from announcing the results of the tense presidential vote.
Mr Damana Adia Pickass, a supporter of Gbagbo and a member of the electoral commission (CEI), seized papers with the election results from the hands of CEI spokesman Bamba Yacouba when he was about to read them out, and tore them up in front of journalists, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Mr Adia Pickass, along with another Gbagbo supporter present at the commission’s headquarters, said that the results were not valid.
Authorities had promised to announce delayed results Wednesday morning, amid fears of unrest after disruptions and accusations of abuses in the election, already marred by at least seven deaths in vote-related violence.
By midday however reporters were still being barred from the electoral commission’s headquarters, which were surrounded by soldiers and police.
Allies of Gbagbo vowed to ensure the annulment of votes in four northern regions, while the camp of his rival Alassane Ouattara accused the president of trying to steal power by blocking the announcement of partial results.
Troops have redeployed to secure the main city of Abidjan, which remained tense and quieter than usual Wednesday, awaiting results of the polls which seek to end a decade of instability in the world’s biggest cocoa producer.
“People are going a bit crazy. There are hundreds of rumours of violence so the atmosphere is rather tense,” said Marcel Camara, 37, hunkered down with his aunt and two cousins at their home in the Abobo district of Abidjan, where a curfew has been in force since Saturday.
“We are waiting for news but it never comes. It’s making people afraid. After the results are announced, if they are contested that could lead to days of trouble,” he told AFP by telephone.
“We will fight to the end to ensure that the true results are published,” Gbagbo’s spokesman Pascal Affi N’Guessan told a news conference Wednesday morning. “We will do all in our power for the results in all areas where fraud took place in the elections fraudulently to be annulled, so that the outcome of the ballots reflects the real opinion of our countrymen.”
Late today, Mr Ouattara demanded that authorities release “immediately” the delayed results. “It is imperative that the president of the Independent Electoral Commission declares the provisional results immediately,” Mr Ouattara told a news conference.
The delay “exposes us to a situation of uncertainty,” Mr Ouattara said.
Mr Ouattara’s camp earlier accused Gbagbo’s allies of deliberately blocking the results.
“Laurent Gbagbo is aiming for a confiscation of power and aiming to drive the country once again into chaos,” spokesman Albert Mabri Toikeusse told a news conference. (AFP)