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November 4, 2020

Africa

COTE D’IVOIRE: Ouattara declared winner, opposition to form counter-government

BY Malte Liewerscheidt

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In the early hours of 3 November, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) declared President Alassane Ouattara the winner of the 31 October presidential election, with 94.3% of votes cast, amid an official turnout of 53.9%. However, the proclamation of results was proceeded by the opposition’s announcement to form a counter-government on the evening of 2 November. While voting day itself appears to have gone down without too many disruptions, as explained earlier, the coming days thus bear a significant potential for a post-electoral eruption of violence, especially if the government were to imprison opposition leaders. Nevertheless, unlike in 2010, the opposition does not have any apparent option to seize power, and potential protests would likely peter out eventually.

According to the CEI, despite the opposition’s civil disobedience campaign, the vote went ahead as planned in 79% of the 22,381 polling stations nationwide, allowing some 6mn of the 7.5mn officially registered voters to cast their ballot. Taking 6mn as their basis, with officially 3.2mn votes cast, the CEI arrives at a turnout of 53.9% (against 43.6% if registered voters were taken as the basis). According to the CEI, Ouattara received 94.27% of votes cast, followed by Kouadio Konan Bertin (1.99%), Konan Henri Bedie (1.66%), and Pascal Affi N’Guessan (0.99%). Despite their election boycott, the names of the latter two had remained on the ballot papers, which had already been printed.

Needless to say, none of the official figures are recognized by the opposition. In fact, N’Guessan and Bedie forestalled the announcement of results by declaring the creation of a ‘National Transition Council’ in the evening hours of 2 November. Headed by Bedie, the said council should bring about the formation of a transitional government with the aim to deliver a fresh round of “transparent and inclusive” presidential elections.

This high-stakes gamble’s likely aim is to provoke a heavy-handed reaction by the government, hoping that the ensuing violence would draw enough international attention to force Ouattara into some kind of mediation process. Shortly after the announcement, Bedie suggested via his Twitter handle that his residence, alongside that of N’Guessan and two other opposition party leaders, had been attacked with “heavy weapons.”

Whether Ouattara will take the bait and escalate the situation further by imprisoning opposition leaders will depend on how emboldened he feels by the conduct of the vote and the international reaction. However, Bedie’s official involvement in forming a counter-government, having refrained from throwing his ally N’Guessan under the bus immediately, increases the risk for Ouattara. Nevertheless, given both sides’ deeply entrenched positions and the apparent absence of any viable option for the opposition to seize power, any prospects for a swift climb down remain extremely slim.

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