Ivorians vote in parliamentary election

Reuters , Sunday 11 Dec 2011

Ivorians vote in a parliamentary election which is expected to see the ruling coalition of President Alassane Ouattara strengthen its rule in the world's top cocoa producing nation

In this Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 photo, supporters of legislative election candidates from the party of president Alassane Ouattara march through the streets of the Abobo neighborhood, Abidjan, on the final day of campaigning ahead of Sunday legislative elections, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast . (Photo: AP)

More than 5 million voters are expected to cast their ballots in an election that marks the first time since 2000 the West African nation has been able to elect a parliament.

The vote, boycotted by the party of former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo over allegations of unfair treatment of Gbagbo supporters, is seen as a crucial step toward recovery after a decade of conflict and political turmoil.

In Yopougon, a pro-Gbagbo stronghold in the country's commercial capital Abidjan, voters trickled into polling stations while other polling stations waited for voters. "All is calm, we are just waiting for voters," said Vanessa N'Dri, head of a polling station in Yopougon, who said she was still waiting for the first of about 400 registered voters.

Ouattara's ruling coalition, which includes his RDR party and the allied PDCI, appears set for a landslide win based on voting patterns during the first-round of last year's presidential polls.

Ouattara won presidential elections in November 2010 but was only able to take the reins of power in April after fighters backing him invaded the economic capital Abidjan and captured ex-leader Laurent Gbagbo, who had rejected the results. Gbagbo has appeared at the International Criminal Court at The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape.

Pockets of lingering tension and violence in parts of the country, particularly in the west, have reinforced worries of trouble during the polls, which will be secured by local and United Nations forces.
In Gagnoa, Gbagbo's birthplace in the west of the country, the tension remains palpable over Gbagbo's transfer to The Hague.

"There are SMS messages circulating in the area asking people not to vote," said Joel Zadi who lives on the outskirts of Gagnoa. "People did not like Gbagbo's transfer."

Nearly 1,000 candidates are vying for the National Assembly's 255 seats, according to the electoral commission. The results of the poll are expected during the week.

Campaigning has been mostly peaceful so far, though three people were killed on Wednesday in a rocket blast at a rally in Grand-Lahou, in the southwest.

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