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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.

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N'Dre is a loyalist to the ruling party of Gbagbo, who will evidently not be conceding victory anytime soon.

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UN, EU certified the vote

But Ouattara's win came as little surprise to many insiders – election results showing his victory had been quietly circulating for days.

The peace process that had put an end to a 2002-2004 civil war and set the stage for this election stipulated that all local polling results had to be sent to the political parties, several foreign embassies, and the head of the United Nations mission in the country in addition to the Electoral Commission, charged with declaring the results. This way, the thinking went, no one could doctor the numbers and verification would be easy.

Yet Gbagbo's camp seems to have found a way around this framework, via a concerted campaign to invalidate results from Ouattara strongholds in the north.

Not three hours after the polls closed on Nov. 28, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, a spokesman for Gbagbo's campaign, called into question the results from three regions in the north where Ouattara had received more than 85 percent of the votes in the first round. He said these regions should be thrown out because of violence, voter intimidation, and fraud.

However, the European Union and United Nations approved the results. While both organizations noted isolated incidents of violence leading to at least three deaths, the EU and UN nevertheless certified the vote as free and fair.

A campaign to reject the poll

Yet this is not the message Ivorians got from state TV. Instead, these reports were replaced by unknown African observer missions that denounced irregularities in the same northern regions that Mr. N'Guessan had cited, and claimed that these problems were so grave as to invalidate the entire election.

Teams of local reporters were dispatched to the north and came back with footage of the injured in hospital and the grieving families of the deceased.

The coup de grâce came when electoral commissioners hailing from Gbagbo's party physically prevented the first provisional results from being announced, ripping the sheets from the spokesman's hands in front of the rolling cameras.

Gbagbo's supporters were forced to reject results from a fourth region several days later, presumably after it became evident that Gbagbo still wouldn't win with the original three regions left out.

As night fell Thursday and statements were read on the nightly news sealing the country's borders and blocking all foreign radio and TV, it became clear that the election was far from won.


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