Ivory Coast vote free, fair - Ecowas

2011-12-13 20:05

Lagos - Weekend parliamentary elections in Ivory Coast were free and fair despite a low turnout after a boycott call from supporters of ex-leader Laurent Gbagbo, West African regional bloc Ecowas said on Tuesday.

President Alassane Ouattara's party was on the cusp of an outright parliamentary majority, public television said on Tuesday as the final votes were counted.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) team of observers acknowledged organisational problems, but said they were not enough to affect the overall outcome of the vote.

"Despite these shortcomings, the mission did not find any major irregularity," Ecowas said in a statement.

It concluded that the elections "were generally conducted under acceptable free, fair and transparent conditions".

The vote passed without the kind of violence many observers had feared, but Ivory Coast's electoral commission said estimates showed a turnout of about 35%, a far cry from the record 80% in last year's presidential poll.

The party of former strongman Gbagbo had called for a boycott of the polls after complaining that candidates aligned to Ouattara had been campaigning with armed escorts that amounted to militias.

The regional bloc, based in Nigeria and which includes Ivory Coast, said it regretted some "localised" violent incidents it said undermined the overall peaceful electoral campaign.

The vote came a year after conflict over a presidential election brought the world's top cocoa producer to the brink of civil war.

"In the view of the mission, these elections are milestones towards the final exit from the Ivorian crisis and an important step toward the political and institutional normalisation in Cote d'Ivoire," it said.