|The election has been marked by wrangling and attempts by the ruling party to block the release of the results [AFP]|
Cote d’Ivoire has closed its land, sea and air borders until further notice hours after the electoral commission declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara winner of the West African nation’s first presidential election in a decade.
“The land, air and sea borders are closed to all movement of people and goods from this Thursday at 8:00 pm (2000 GMT) 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.
Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from Abidjan, the capital, said the main airport there was also being closed.
The army spokesman who read the statement did not give reasons why the borders had been closed, our correspondent said.
“There’s fever-peak speculation that these orders are being executed on the orders of the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo who has decided not to step down following the announcement that the leader of the opposition … won the presidential runoff that took place on Sunday,” she said.
Thursday’s announcement that Ouattara had won the runoff came after days of internal wrangling and attempts by the ruling party to prevent the release of results.
The country’s constitutional council, which must validate the victory and is led by a ruling party loyalist, has rejected the electoral commission’s declaration that Ouattara won the election.
Paul Yao N’Dre, the head of the council, announced on Thursday that the commission had failed to follow protocol because it had released the results a day late.
He said that because the electoral law had not been followed, the results were not valid.
It would now fall to the council to review the results, he said.
There are concerns the wrangling could prolong uncertainty in the country whose economy, once one of the most prosperous in Africa, was destroyed by political infighting.
“We’ve asked the [electoral commmision] to transmit all the results to us,” N’Dre said. “We will announce the results within seven days.”
Gbagbo’s supporters had prevented the commission from announcing the outcome from Sunday’s runoff, saying tallies from at least four of the country’s 19 regions should be cancelled because of irregularities.
On Tuesday officials loyal to Gbagbo grabbed the results from a spokesman for the commission and tore them up as he read them in front of the television camera.
Youssouf Bakayoko, the head of the election commission, said that Ouattara won with 54.1 per cent of the vote, compared to 45.9 per cent for Gbagbo.
In a news conference immediately after the announcement of his victory, the 68-year-old Ouattara called on his opponent to respect the outcome.
“I remind my brother Laurent Gbagbo of our mutual engagement to respect the results proclaimed by the independent electoral commission,” he said.
“I’m proud of my country which has resolutely chosen democracy today and I hope this leads to a durable peace in Ivory Coast.”
The election was the first in 10 years following a brief 2002-2003 civil war that destroyed the economy of the world’s top cocoa producer and sent foreign investors and the nation’s large expatriate community packing.
The country was divided into two, with Gbagbo ruling the government-controlled south while the north, where Ouattara comes from, remained in rebel hands.
Gbagbo, whose five-year mandate officially expired in 2005, has stayed in office while claiming elections were impossible because of instability.