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Ivory Coast Casts Votes for President

by Emilie Iob October 25, 2015

In Ivory Coast, more than six million voters are eligible to head to the polls Sunday for the first round of a presidential election. Seven candidates are running, including incumbent President Alassane Ouattara. The election is crucial for the country after previous post-election violence left several thousand people dead.

Waiting outside a polling station inside a school in a central neighborhood of Ivory Coast's biggest city, Abidjan, this voter is getting impatient. The polling station is not open more than one hour past the indicated time and about 50 people are waiting, shielding themselves from intermittent downpours.

A voter says that if there is a delay of one or two hours for polling stations to open, it could lead to problems and prevent a peaceful election.

Poll workers said they were waiting for observers from the various candidates, and that not all the staff had arrived. But soon after, all stations in the neighborhood opened.

The stakes are high, after post-election violence in 2010 killed at least 3,000 people.

Philippe, who arrived early, says voting is very important. He says he hopes the voting goes well, and that, whoever wins, people will accept the results and the country remains peaceful.

Five years ago, then incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and contestant Alassane Ouattara both claimed victory, and this led to months of unrest. Gbagbo eventually was arrested and Ouattara became president of the East African country.

Ouattara is running for a second term, facing six other contestants.

Three candidates pulled out in the past few weeks, saying conditions for free and fair elections were not met, and the election should be boycotted. They claimed the electoral commission was biased in favor of Ouattara, and some names on the list of voters were listed several times.

The electoral commission says a new biometric verification system will prevent fraud.

A voting staff member says the system checks fingerprints and shows personal information, which prevents an imposter from voting.

About 7,000 local and international monitors have been accredited to observe voting across the country, and 34,000 soldiers, including 6,000 'blue helmets,' (U.N. peacekeepers) have been deployed to secure the vote.

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