Ivory Coast Heads Into Presidential Elections On Sunday

Ivory Coast Heads Into Presidential Elections On Sunday

 Ivory Coast heads into presidential elections on Sunday after several days of political campaigns and rallies around its communities and provinces.

The incumbent Alassane Ouattara, is campaigning on restoring stability and a peaceful nation which makes him widely tipped for re-election, but the opposition parties are crying foul with the country desperately needing a peaceful and credible ballot.

The once West African economic power house was torn apart in a bloody bloc of rebel-held north and a loyalists south close to a decade which saw Ouattara stand against the vindictive rule of former leader, Laurent Gbagbo. The former French colony lost over 3,000 lives in 2010 in the ensuing confrontations.

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Ouattara 73, is aiming at a good first-round win to avoid the threat of a run-off against a potential contender.

The country’s electoral body says polling stations were set to open at 0700 GMT and close at 1700 GMT with preliminary results expected early in the week. There are over six million people who  are eligible to vote, but with memories of the violence sparked by the last election still fresh in many people's minds, there are concerns turnout might be low.

The one-time top economist with IMF as a deputy head was inaugurated as president in 2011 with the support of France after weeks of violence against Gbagbo who is now in a Dutch jail. He is expected to go on trial next month for war crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Ouattara has campaigned on turning around Ivory Coast's economy and securing stability after years of instability.

Former prime minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan, who is running on behalf of Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front, is Ouattara’s main challenger this time in Sunday’s polls with five other presidential contenders.

A Former Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny dropped out of the running on Friday, citing “grave irregularities” in the organization of the elections. He became the third candidate to do so.

Former foreign minister Amara Essy had also withdrawn, along with former national assembly president Mamadou Koulibaly, who condemned the vote as "rigged".

Ouattara laughed off their boycotts as a bid to bow out of a competition they were destined to lose.

Ouattara has come under criticism from Amnesty International for the rampant detention of opponents ahead of the elections, and human rights campaigners have said little justice has been meted out to members of his camp over the 2010-11 violence.

In the pro-Gbagbo district of Yopougon, which is known for its buzzing nightlife, there was deep calm on Saturday, with many residents still claiming Gbagbo as the rightful winner of the 2010 vote.

However, in the active pro-Ouattara neighbourhood of Adobo, the mood was upbeat amongst voters cheered on their champion, known as "Ado" after his initials.

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