Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Low turnout in Ivory coast election

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara looks on as his wife Dominique casts her vote in legislative elections (AP)

Ivory Coast's second national poll in 11 years has attracted little voter interest, a stark contrast to last year's massive presidential election which later sent the West African nation spiralling into violence.

The parliamentary election, the first the country has had since 2000, saw voters trickling into polling stations in the commercial capital Abidjan, the scene of months of violence after the former strongman refused to accept his loss in last year's poll.

Some 1,100 candidates vied for 255 legislative seats.

Electoral officials did not release turnout figures but President Alassane Ouattara said he hoped that more than a third of voters would participate.

A spokesman for the top opposition party, which had called for a boycott of the poll, estimated that as few as 10% of voters participated.

It is hoped the vote can bring stability and usher in a period of economic growth in the once-flourishing nation, a leading cocoa producer. United Nations and local officials reported no major incidents by the time polls closed.

But the poll was overshadowed by fall-out from last year's vote. Former strongman Laurent Gbagbo awaits trial at The Hague over accusations that his forces committed murder and rape after he rejected his loss in the election. His party called for supporters to boycott the election.

But even in areas supportive of Mr Ouattara, turnout was thin.

In Abidjan's Abobo neighbourhood, a Ouattara stronghold, some 20 voters waited for polls to open on Sunday morning. That polling station, like others in the city, opened late.

Mr Ouattara voted in Abidjan at around noon and called on Ivorians to go to the polls. "In my view, this election is essential because for the past 11 years, Ivorians have not been able to vote for their representatives in parliament," he said. "Today the had a possibility to do so, so they should not miss this opportunity."

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