Ivory Coast opposition leader lodges challenge to poll

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ABIDJAN: Ivory Coast opposition leader Henri Konan Bedie has challenged the results of an election in which he came third, failing to make the second round run-off, a spokesman said on Friday.
Ivory Coast’s first election in a decade left Bedie with around 25 percent of the vote, against President Laurent Gbagbo’s 38 percent and challenger Alassane Ouattara’s 32 percent. Gbagbo and Ouattara now head to the second round scheduled for Nov 28.
The long-delayed poll in the world’s top cocoa grower is meant to reunite the once prosperous nation after the war if 2002-3 split it in two and left the north in the hands of rebels.
It is also the flashpoint of a bitter rivalry between the three main candidates, although widespread fears of street violence between their supporters have so far not come true. Bedie alleged rigging and called for a recount shortly after the result was announced on Thursday.
“We have lodged a challenge to the results with the independent electoral commission, demanding a recount, and now we are waiting for the response,” Emile Ebrote, a spokesman for Bedie’s party, said by telephone.
Ivory Coast’s constitutional court has until Nov. 10 to hear all challenges and then validate the first round results.
Many Ivorians had feared such a close race would be disputed, leading to street violence as in previous elections.
But apart from a few hundred Bedie supporters blocking roads around his party headquarters in a leafy suburb of Abidjan on Thursday, there have been no mass protests on his behalf. The United Nations’ top representative to Ivory Coast, YJ Choi, has said he is not worried by the complaint, provided Bedie sticks to democratic methods.
All candidates have been under immense international pressure to accept the results. If the court rejects Bedie’s complaint and validates the results, all eyes will turn to Bedie’s potential role as king-maker.
Gbagbo and Ouattara are likely to be close in the second round, so the contest hinges on which way Bedie’s supporters will vote.