Côte d'Ivoire
Ivorian opposition wins municipal elections

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» NDI Statement on Political Developments in Côte d'Ivoire

In Internet
Fraternité Matin 
IRIN - Côte d'Ivoire
Allasane Ouattara 
Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI)

afrol.com , 28 March - The main opposition party of Côte d'Ivoire, Rally of Republicans (RDR), of former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, has so far gained control of almost twice as many councils as the ruling party. Ouattara was barred from standing at the presidential and legislative elections, and the municipal election results confirm the widespread critics against President Gbagbo's bid for power.

Finally, the RDR and Ouattara have been able to show their strength in free and fair elections, and shown that they represent the main political force in Côte d'Ivoire. Official results so far published by the Ivorian National Election Committee (CNE) show that the RDR had gained control of 64 councils, while President Laurent Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) has gained control of 33 councils. So far, the results from 195 out a total of 197 councils (communes) have been published.

The Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), which held power from independence (the legendary President Felix Houphouet-Boigny) until the Government of President Henri Konan Bedie was toppled on 24 December 1999, also remains a leading political power in the country. The PDCI so far comes out second, gaining control of 59 councils. Independent contesters so far have gained control of 38 councils.

Reports from Abidjan, the Ivorian economic capital, are of celebrations by RDR supporters, which seem to have gained a greater victory than they expected. The last year had been marked by severe political unrest and violence, mostly between RDR activists and supporters of President Gbagbo's FPI. Former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara was barred from contesting the previous elections, allegedly not being 100 percent Ivorian, under strong domestic and international protest. 

The RDR boycotted the presidential and legislative elections, claiming they would have won under Ouattara's leadership. The municipal election results indicate they might have been right, and that the leading political forces of the country do not include President Gbagbo's FPI. Gbagbo was elected president standing against military dictator Robert Guéi in an October 2000 poll, where Ouattara and 14 other candidates were barred from contesting.

Both RDR leader Ouattara and PDCI leader Bedie are presently in exile in Paris, France. It is hoped that this election, marking the political comeback of the two parties, might lead to their return to Côte d'Ivoire and a normalised political atmosphere in the country. 

The results for the RDR in Sunday's municipal elections are even more positive considering that the party gained support all over the country, not just in the Muslim north, considered its stronghold. The RDR also gained control of the council of the central Ivorian city of Bouaké, the second largest in the country and considered a stronghold of the PDCI. 

The Ivorian press expressed great surprise over the RDR victory in Bouaké, the daily newspaper Fraternité Matin asking "a defeat of the PDCI in Bouaké, who had believed that?" The newspaper's analyst sees it as proof for profound political changes taking part in Côte d'Ivoire. "For sure, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the founding father of [the PDCI] must be turning in his grave. Surprised, disappointed and perplexed," Youssouf Sylla commented.

Although there were reported minor incidents in the west and the north of the country, the municipal elections in general have experienced little violence. Clashes related to the presidential and legislative elections cost the lives of an estimated 400 political activists. President Laurent Gbagbo therefore yesterday expressed his "satisfaction in relation to the calm and the serenity in which the elections proceeded as a whole."

The elections were adjudged as generally free and fair by international observers from Africa, the Europe Union and the United States. On this background, France has already announced its return to financial cooperation with Côte d'Ivoire. Aid and cooperation with Côte d'Ivoire was frozen by the international community after the coup in 1999, and continued after the unfair presidential and legislative elections.

Voter turnout was lower than expected, only 41 percent, according to the CNE. This is however higher than in the two anterior elections, boycotted by the RDR.

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