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Residents of the Ivory Coast are braced for more violence after the West Africa nation voted Sunday in a run-off presidential election that many hope will bring an end to a decade of instability within the world's top cocoa producer.
The nation has been divided between the north and the south following the 2002-2003 civil war. And there are hopes that the election can help sow the country back together. But, despite efforts to keep the calm, the election has seen several violent protests, one of which left 3 people dead in the capital city of Abidjan on Saturday.
If the election results are disputed, many residents are concerned it could lead to bloodshed and unrest.
“The stakes are very high. The first round was very good. [But] we have seen some radicalization,” said Gilles Yabi, an independent political analyst, in an interview with Al Jazeera. “I’m afraid we can expect some degree of violence.”
Back on course?
The run-off is between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara. So far, there has been relative calm. After ten years of political instability, Ivorians see this as a chance to put their nation, which was once the most prosperous in Africa, back on course.
Violence has marked the electoral process since the first round of voting in October. The most recent clashes resulted over a curfew enacted Saturday night by President Gbagbo. While the president insists that the purpose of the curfew was to curb further violence, his rival, Mr. Ouattara alleges that the curfew may have helped enable voter fraud, reports Iran’s Press TV.
Ouattara has also said the curfew is “illegal” and should have only been enacted in the event of violence after the final results.
Indeed, many will be watching closely for violence as the results are expected to be close two candidates represent the north and the south. This is the first open election the country has seen in the 50 years since its independence, reports the BBC.
All or nothing
Still, there are concerns that the prospects of a unified Ivory Coast may be fading, as unrest unfolded over the last several months.
Both candidates have increased personal attacks on their opponent, causing concern that they may also be creating something of a powder keg, reports Bloomberg.
Both candidates “have extremists in their ranks and there is no guarantee that the loser will accept the results,” said Dominique Assale Aka, vice-chairman of the Ivorian Civil Society Convention in a Bloomberg article. “It’s all or nothing for them.”