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Vote Counting Underway in Ivory Coast Presidential Election

Scott Stearns | Abidjan 01 November 2010

Vote counting is underway in Ivory Coast's presidential election. The vote is meant to reunite the country, eight years after the start of civil war.

Vote counting at more than 20,000 polling stations began immediately after they closed, late Sunday, and continued on into the night. Although the electoral commission has three days to announce the results, preliminary returns are expected later Monday.

There are 14 candidates, but only three real contenders: President Laurent Gbagbo, former president Henri Konan Bedie and former prime minister Alassane Ouattara. If no one wins more than half the votes, the top two finishers will face off in a second round.

So it is important for each man to do well with his base, to build the foundation for potential second-round coalitions with losing candidates. Bedie and Ouattara have already pledged to back the other, if either man faces President Gbagbo in a run off.

The president is calling on all candidates to keep their supporters calm and await official results.

The president says it is about respecting the law. He says, candidates should not make a spectacle of themselves by each proclaiming their own results. He says Ivory Coast has a law which is clear and that it is the Independent Electoral Commission which has the authority to announce provisional results. It is then up to the Constitutional Council to give the final results. The president says, if everyone respects the law, there will be no problems in Ivory Coast.

It is an important vote, not only for Ivory Coast but for West Africa, as well. With ethnic violence delaying Guinea's second round of presidential voting and Sierra Leone and Liberia still struggling to recover their own civil wars, a successful vote here helps stability and economic development.

Former Ghanaian president John Kufuor is an election observer with the Carter Center.

"Cote d'Ivoire has always been the economic heartland or center of, I would say, not only the Francophone West Africa but even the Anglophone neighborhood, and everybody is looking to Cote d'Ivoire to have a peaceful and fair election so it will be restored to play its proper role for the development of the entire neighborhood," he said.

The Carter Center and the European Union observer mission will announce their preliminary reports on the fairness of the vote Tuesday.

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