Ivory Coast closes its borders as tensions rise after disputed poll

Opposition’s apparent election victory dismissed by presidential aides as ‘attempted coup d’etat’

David Smith and agencies

Ivory Coast opposition supporters
Supporters of Ivory Coast’s opposition leader Alassane Ouattara break an electoral board of Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo. Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP

Ivory Coast closed its borders and blocked foreign media last night after an apparent election victory for the opposition was dismissed by presidential aides as “an attempted coup d’etat”.
The UN security council and the US urged all parties to respect the democratic process after at least four people were killed in political violence.
The threat of instability grew after opposition leader Alassane Ouattara was declared the provisional winner of the west African country’s first election for a decade.
Election commission chief Youssouf Bakayoko said Ouattara had won with 54.1% of the vote, compared with 45.9% for the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, after days of backroom wrangling.
Bakayoko left his headquarters unannounced and slipped into the Gulf hotel, which is under UN guard, to make the announcement. The hotel replayed his declaration on outside speakers, on its lawn as crowds gathered and opposition supporters began celebrating.
However, the result must be validated by the country’s constitutional council, which is led by ruling party loyalist Paul Yao N’Dre. He appeared on state-controlled television and said the commission had missed a constitutionally mandated midnight deadline on Wednesday. “After the failure of the [election commission] to find a consensus, only the constitutional council is qualified to give the results of this election,” he said. “There are some foreign TV channels amusing themselves giving results. Ivorians should consider these results null and void.”
Soon after, it was announced that all foreign radio and TV broadcasts were being banned indefinitely and that the country’s air, land and maritime borders had been closed by the military.
One of Gbagbo’s senior advisers, Richard Assamoa, called the release of results “an attempted coup d’etat”.
There are widespread fears the electoral dispute will erupt into violence between Gbagbo’s and Ouattara’s youth supporters or between Ouattara’s supporters and security forces.
Authorities said police responding to a call at one of Ouattara’s offices had killed four people after being fired upon. An opposition leader said another 12 were shot dead by security forces in central Abidjan.
Supporters of Gbagbo had earlier prevented the election 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. When a spokesman for the commission attempted to announce partial results, officials loyal to Gbagbo stepped in front of the cameras and ripped the results out of his hand, blocking him from reading them.
If Ouattara remains the victor of the race, he will become the first Muslim president in this largely Christian nation.
The UN security council warned Ivory Coast that it was prepared to take “appropriate measures”, a diplomatic codeword for sanctions, against anyone thwarting the electoral process.


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