Military order comes after electoral commission announced that opposition leader had won Sunday’s presidential runoff.
|Both sides are claiming victory in the election, with the constitutional council naming Gbagbo as the winner [AFP]|
Cote D’Ivoire’s constitutional court council named Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent president, as the winner of the country’s presidential run-off vote, despite electoral officials having earlier declared opposition leader Alassane Outtara as the victor.
The opposition has warned that the conflict over the results of Sunday’s election threatens to push the West African nation back towards war.
Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abidjan, the country’s largest city, said that their had been violence on the streets in reaction to the reversal of the result.
“It’s bad news from Abidjan tonight. Those outbreaks of violence that people had feared, particularly amongst supporters of the opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, have started to break out across Abidjan,” Ndege said.
“From my hotel room alone, I saw four plumes of black smoke, thick black smoke. And what we’re told by people on the ground is the supporters are on the rampage.
“Burning houses, burning public buildings, burning tyres. They’re furious that Laurent Gbagbo has been declared the president.”
Anticipating the constitutional council’s decision on Friday, Ouattara’s camp said it would reject any legal bid to overturn the provisional results which made Ouattara, the country’s former prime minister, the president by a margin of 54.1 per cent to 45.9 per cent.
“We will not recognise any decisions by the constitutional council taken under such conditions,” Amadou Gon, a senior campaign aide, said.
The chairman of the constitutional council, which validates election results, dismissed the provisional results in a 30-minute presentation on Friday, detailing what he described as irregularities that had led to his decision.
Paul Yao N’Dre said results in seven regions in the north, where Ouattara draws the majority of his support, had been annulled.
Yao N’Dre said overall Gbagbo had won a little more than 51 per cent of the vote.
The new figures were broadcast in a continuous loop on TV and radio stations throughout the country, even though the results were immediately rejected by the UN.
No process for appeals
There is no legal means for the opposition to appeal the decision by the country’s highest legal body.
“The opposition leaders has few options on the table because the constitutional court is the ultimate decider in this race and it’s decided that the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, who’s been president for ten years already, won the election last Sunday,” Ndege said.
“The question now is, will pressure be brought to bear on Gbagbo if [Ouattara’s] supporters go out there and start tearing up the city?”
In addition to the constitutional council, the UN must also certify the results under a 2007 peace deal signed by Gbagbo.
Young-Jin Choi, the special representative of the UN secretary-general in Cote d’Ivoire, held a news conference on Friday to denounce the new results.
He said that even if the seven contested regions are thrown out, the opposition candidate is still ahead, saying he has “absolute confidence that there is only one winner – Mr Alassane Ouattara”.
Ndege said: “[The UN has] already taken sides. The head of the UN mission here, backed by the UN Security Council, the African Union, the ECOWAS – the Economic Union of West African States – are saying they don’t recognise Laurent Gbagbo as the legitimate winner of last Sunday’s poll.
“That they recognise Alassane Ouattara, leader of the opposition, as president-elect, and they called on the constitutional court to announce that the opposition leader has won.”
Leaders of the US and France also called on candidates to respect the will of the people.
The US state department noted Ouattara’s provisional score and the fact that international observers had deemed the vote fair.
Pascal Aff N’Guessan, Gbagbo’s campaign manager, said that international observers had no right to do so, the Reuters press agency reported.
“Everyone needs to understand that the Constitutional Council is the institution with the competence to proclaim the definitive results from this election,” he said.
“No one can say a candidate has won except the constitutional court.”
Jennot Ahoussou, a member of Ouattara’s campaign team, warned of the risk of war and deepening divisions in the country. He condemned Yao N’dre, for overturning the results.
“By doing that they will cement the division of the country … If Yao N’Dre does it he will be to blame for the next war in Ivory Coast,” Ahoussou said.
Fears are now growing that the deadlock could lead to deadly clashes, and an aide to the opposition leader has warned of turmoil.
“They feel they’re being robbed and they’re calling this a coup d’état,” Ndege said.
It was hoped the November 28 poll, which was the first in a decade, would restore stability to Cote D’Ivoire and reunite a country split into north and south by a 2002 to 2003 war.
But that goal appear to be unravelling fast. The country is now under lock down with land, sea and air borders closed.
“The land, air and sea borders are closed to all movement of people and goods from this Thursday at 8:00 pm [20:00GMT] until further notice,” the army said in a statement on state television on Thursday.
A separate statement said authorities would jam foreign television and radio signals.
Gbagbo’s camp has accused the opposition of rigging votes in the rebel-held north, claiming the results were invalid since the commission missed the deadline for publication by one day – an argument the constitutional council upheld in Friday’s announcement.
Diplomats had said the fact the electoral commission managed to publish the figure – rather than allowing it to go under wraps to the constitutional council for a final ruling – would make any attempt to tamper with the score more difficult.
For days, the ruling party had physically prevented the spokesman of the election commission from announcing the provisional results of Sunday’s runoff, going so far as to rip the results out of his hands as he tried to read them in front of television cameras.
Gbagbo’s last term elapsed in 2005 but he repeatedly cancelled the date for this election, claiming first that the country was too volatile and that security could not be assured, and later over technicalities like the composition of the voter roll.