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Two candidates claim victory in Ivory Coast election. Who's right?

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was today declared winner of the election, a day after opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara was also declared the victor.

By Marco Chown OvedContributor / December 3, 2010

Supporters of Alassane Ouattara celebrate on a street in Gagnoa, the native village of rival candidate and current President Laurent Gbagbo, western Ivory Coast, Dec. 2.

Luc Gnago/Reuters


Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Spilling out the front door of the fancy Golf Hotel on Thursday, crowds jumped for joy and cried the name Alassane Ouattara, the man who only seconds before had been proclaimed the winner of Ivory Coast's presidential election.

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But their celebration was short lived. Today, Constitutional Council President Paul Yao N'Dre named incumbent Laurent Gbagbo winner of presidential elections, overruling provisional results announced the day before by the Electoral Commission.

The announcement heightens tensions in the violence-plagued nation, which has seen at least four deaths in post-election violence since Sunday.

Mr. Yao N'Dre said the Constitutional Council had annulled results in seven regions in the northern half of the country, which reportedly gave Mr. Gbagbo a majority of 51.45 percent against 48.55 for Mr. Ouattara.

Celebration short lived

Yao N'Dre, a loyalist of the president's ruling party, ruled invalid the earlier provisional results from the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), which declared Thursday that Ouattara defeated Gbagbo 54 percent to 46 percent.

It was a surprise announcement from the CEI made far from the commission's headquarters and with no advance notice, as if to try to make it official before President Gbagbo could stop it. Word spread quickly from the Golf Hotel, first with the help of giant loudspeakers on the hotel lawn, then via text message and phone call.

Within minutes, people in the Muslim-majority north of the country – long excluded and accused of not being real Ivorians – descended into the streets to celebrate that one of their own was finally elected head of state. Many observers compared the moment to how many African Americans viewed the election of President Obama.

Constitutional Council rejects Electoral Commission

As the nightly curfew forced the revelers indoors, state television didn't report the opposition candidate's victory and instead opted to invite the president of the Constitutional Council on air to explain why he, and only he, could proclaim the results of the election.

“The CEI had three days to announce provisional results,” council president Paul Yao N'Dre said on the television broadcast. “This is a constitutional deadline, an imperative deadline,” that expired 72 hours after polls closed, or at midnight the previous night, he said.

“The CEI is no longer competent to give results,” said Mr. N'Dre. “Only the Constitutional Council can announce the results of this election.”


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