The second round of the Côte d’Ivoire presidential elections risks degenerating into violent confrontation unless an appeal for calm is launched.
Côte d’Ivoire: Finally Escaping the Crisis , the latest Africa Briefing by International Crisis Group, calls on the two candidates contesting the run-off, Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, to calm their supporters and accept the results of the 28 November election. It also calls on the international community to remain attentive to the situation, in order to avoid a return to violence in the country.
“Since the announcement of the results of the first round, the climate has deteriorated”, explains Rinaldo Depagne, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst on West Africa. “There have already been several clashes between supporters of the two candidates. If the unrest continues, it risks derailing the entire electoral process”.
The first round set up a run-off between the two most antagonistic candidates in the Ivorian political landscape: the current president, Laurent Gbagbo (38.3 per cent of the vote), and the former prime minister, Alassane Ouattara (32.08 per cent). The first round was relatively peaceful, despite technical flaws, but both camps could now be tempted, in the event of defeat, to contest the results in the street. Ivorians have not forgotten the post-election clashes of October 2000 and the repression by the security forces of an opposition demonstration in 2004, which left at least 150 dead according to the UN.
However, the means exist to avoid violence. Above all, it is necessary to ensure improvements in the organisation of the second round, in order to reduce as far as possible the scope for protest against the results and therefore minimise the risks. In addition, the international community must continue its support but also pressure political leaders, reminding them that they will be held responsible for any escalation by their supporters.
This presidential election presents Ivorian politicians with a unique opportunity to end a decade of crisis and recurring violence, as well as an unexpected chance to create the conditions for an economic revival that would be important for all West Africa. They must refrain, however, from any extremist discourse and respect the desire of Ivorians to end the crisis through the ballot box by accepting the results of the second round.
“Now is not the time for polite exhortations”, explains Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, Director of Crisis Group’s Africa Program. “If Ivorian political leaders can’t immediately calm their supporters, the chance of resolving the crisis through credible elections may be lost”
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