Sunday, October 25, 2015 10:45 am
Ivorians are voting today in an election in which incumbent, President Alassane Ouattara is heavily favoured to win a second term.
More than 6 million Ivorians are registered to cast their ballots at around 20,000 polling stations, with voting officially beginning at 7 a.m. The election is being monitored by international observers, with former Nigerian leader, Olusegun Obasanjo among them.
It is the first election since the country ended a brief civil war in 2011. However, the poll is marred by a partial boycott, with fears that voter apathy could result in low turnout.
At a primary school in the western city of Man, a witness saw hundreds of people waiting to have their identities verified by new biometric technology before heading into the voter booths.
In a number of locations, however, voting materials arrived late, causing delays.
“We’ve been here since 5 o’clock this morning, but as you can see for yourself there’s nothing,” said Zacharia Traore, a shopkeeper and one of hundreds of people waiting to vote at a school in the city of Gagnoa.
An elections commission official said the same problem had affected many polling stations in the area. And voters in the Yopougon district of the commercial capital Abidjan were also forced to wait for ballots to arrive.
“I am here to do my civic duty. I want to do it quickly then get back home,” said Yopougon resident Stephane Adou.
While few expect serious violence will mar the election, soldiers, police and gendarmes have been deployed across the country to secure the vote.
Reinforcements of security forces arrived overnight in Gagnoa, the home region of ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to recognise Ouattara’s 2010 poll victory sparked the civil war. He is now in The Hague awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court charged with crimes against humanity.
Leaders of a break-away faction of Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) have called for a boycott of the polls, and their strongholds in the west and in certain parts of Abidjan are potential flashpoints for violence.
The FPI has been joined in their boycott call by three candidates, including former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny, who pulled out of the vote saying the process was stacked in Ouattara’s favour.
Voter turnout will be critical to legitimising Ouattara’s mandate if he indeed wins the poll as expected.
Of the six candidates seeking to unseat him, FPI president Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who is leading his party’s moderates, is expected to be his chief challenger.
A peaceful election is crucial to reassuring investors who have flooded into the world’s top cocoa grower, drawn by growth rates of around 9 percent over the past three years as other African economies have crumbled due to the commodities crash.