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06.03.2021 Europe

Voters go to the polls to elect new parliament in crisis-hit Cote d'Ivoire

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
© Craig Pershouse / Getty Images
LISTEN MAR 6, 2021
© Craig Pershouse / Getty Images

Voters in Cote d'Ivoire cast ballots Saturday in a parliamentary election that is being seen as a key test of stability, four months after a presidential vote marked by deadly violence.

Grappling with a deep political crisis, President Alassane Ouattara has offered an olive branch to his former rival,Laurent Gbagbo, whose party has now ended a decade-long boycott of elections.

More than 1,500 candidates are vying for the votes of roughly seven million people in a contest for the 255-seat National Assembly.

A masked Ouattara voted in the plush Cocody neighbourhood of Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire's main city and economic hub.

"I hope that the unfortunate events of the presidential elections of 2010 and 2020 are past us," he said, referring to poll-linked violence that claimed thousands of lives.

Parliamentary campaign predominantly peaceful

In contrast to the bloodshed that marked the 31 October presidential poll, campaigning for parliamentary seats has been enthusiastic but peaceful.

All the candidates have pledged support for peaceful elections and signed up to a code of conduct.

"The prospect (of a high turnout) favours peaceful elections," said Adama Bictogo, a candidate for the constituency of Agboville, near Abidjan.

In the last legislative vote in December 2016, Ouattara's RHDP party teamed up with the centre-right Ivory Coast Democratic Party (PDCI), winning an absolute majority with 167 seats.

Last year's crisis has shattered that deal.

Independents could hold balance of power

In an unprecedented move, the PDCI has forged an election alliance with the centre-left coalition Together for Democracy and Solidarity (EDS), whose driving force is Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

Their declared aim is to prevent Ouattara and his party from "consolidating absolute power".

 As a result, some commentators believe it could be the most open election in years, with the prospect that independents could hold the balance of power.

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