Ivorian Leader Secures Third Term as Opposition Cries Foul

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara secured a third term as leader of the world’s biggest cocoa producer in an election boycotted by key opposition leaders.

Ouattara, 78, garnered 94.3% of ballots, while his nearest rival -- independent candidate Kouadio Konan Bertin -- obtained 1.99%, the electoral commission announced on Tuesday. Voter turnout was 53.9%, commission head Ibrahime Kuibiert-Coulibaly said.

The scale of the victory strengthens Ouattara’s authority as he faces calls by the opposition for a transitional government to prepare fresh elections. His main rivals, Henri Konan Bedie and Pascal Affi N’Guessan, have said they’ll reject the result and have called for a civil disobedience campaign, arguing that the constitution bars Ouattara from serving more than two terms.

Police surrounded Bedie’s residence in the commercial capital, Abidjan, on Tuesday and prevented him from leaving, while several senior officials of his party were arrested, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because no announcement has been made. Bedie’s party said in a Twitter post that a number of its officials had been arrested and there was video footage on social media of police at Bedie’s house.

Justice Minister Sansan Kambile said earlier he’s asked the state prosecutor to investigate violence perpetrated by opposition supporters and the call for a transitional government, which he said is illegal.

Risk of Violence

“For the stability of the country, it would be better if the different parties could open talks as soon as possible,” said Flan Moquer, director of the Abidjan Political Research Center. “For the part of the population that didn’t support Ouattara to accept the outcome of the vote, the opposition will have to call for them to do so. As long as they continue to reject the results and call for civil disobedience, there’s the risk of violence.”

Investors cheered the news of the result. Yields on Ivory Coast’s $2.5 billion of 2032 Eurobonds fell for a fourth day, bringing their decline since the start of October to 115 basis points. Cocoa prices fell for a fifth day, amid signs of ample supplies from Ivory Coast.

The run-up to the ballot was marred by sporadic violence that the government blamed on the opposition, and at least five people died on Saturday when the vote took place. That fueled fears the country may suffer a repeat of post-election violence a decade ago that left at least 3,000 dead or missing.

To secure the latest vote, the authorities deployed 35,000 security personnel across the West African country. Wary of any repeat of the 2010 violence, Ouattara is expected to act firmly if opposition protests against his victory flare up, said Ousmane Zina, a political analyst at Alassane Ouattara University in Bouake.

“After the announcement of the results, Ouattara will surely harden his tone and strengthen his authority,” Zina said.

The nation’s Constitutional Council must ratify the result within the next seven days.

“Ivorians might be prepared to accept the results to maintain the peace,” said Sansan Palet, a 32-year-old bar owner in Blockhauss, an Abidjan neighborhood where police dispersed protesters who tried to stop Saturday’s vote. “At least, I hope so.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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