Ouattara headed for assembly control

2011-12-15 09:35

Abidjan - Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara's party was headed for a parliamentary majority on Thursday, media reports said, as former strongman Laurent Gbagbo awaits trial in The Hague.

Public television reports said Ouattara's Rally of Republicans (RDR) had so far won 123 out of 225 seats up for grabs in Sunday's elections and that its main ally the Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI) had captured 93.

Independents had garnered 12 seats, the media reports said, as some newspapers hailed the RDR as "the big winner" and "new master".

The Independent Electoral Commission announced late Wednesday that final results would be published on Thursday.

Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) boycotted the country's first legislative poll since 2000, citing security concerns and the detention of the former president, whose release it says is a prerequisite for "reconciliation".

Bloody chaos

Ivory Coast - once a beacon of stability in western Africa - was plunged into bloody chaos when Gbagbo, 66, refused to accept defeat in a November 2010 presidential poll and held onto power for months.

The ensuing fighting left about 3 000 people dead.

Gbagbo - who had already held on to his job for five years after his initial mandate expired in 2005 - was captured in his presidential palace by pro-Ouattara forces in April, with support from French and UN troops.

As the first former head of state to be brought before the ICC, he faces four counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and inhuman acts allegedly committed by his troops between December 16 2010 and April 12.

Gbagbo's lawyers told the ICC in a hearing on Wednesday that "we have not yet been able to start our investigations because of the absence of legal aid".

"At the moment, we have no office, no computer, no access to the court's computer network and no means," said lawyer Emmanuel Altit, referring to financial help given to suspects considered indigent, or without funds.

ICC spokesperson Fadi el-Abdallah told AFP the registrar had not yet made a decision on Gbagbo's possible indigence.

A confirmation of charges hearing - to decide whether Gbagbo will eventually stand trial - is to be held on June 18.

The ICC is also investigating other figures in the conflict.

Political and military crisis

Prime Minister and former rebel leader Guillaume Soro, some of whose lieutenants have been charged with crimes, was due to meet ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and his successor Fatou Bensouda in New York on Thursday.

If the victory of Ouattara's party is confirmed, the next question will be whether Soro - elected with a Soviet-style score of nearly 99% in his hometown of Ferkessedougou - will retain his post as prime minister.

Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa producer, has been plagued by a decade of political and military crisis. The election campaign was marred by five deaths, but the legislative poll itself took place without serious incident.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has hailed a "peaceful and orderly" vote, and West African regional bloc Ecowas said on Tuesday that the elections had been free and fair despite a low turnout.

France said it saw the poll as "an important step in consolidating democracy and the ongoing process of reconstruction and reconciliation".