ANALYSIS-Ivory Coast faces new bout of uncertainty
02 Dec 2010
Source: reuters // Reuters
ABIDJAN, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Ivory Coast faced growing uncertainty and the threat of further unrest on Thursday after the country’s top legal body rejected provisional poll results that gave opposition leader Alassane Ouattara victory in a presidential election.
The military announced that all air, land and sea borders would be closed until further notice. An overnight curfew imposed ahead of the Nov. 28 vote was extended earlier this week until Sunday.
Here are factors to watch now as doubts increasingly cloud the electoral process aimed at healing divisions in the world’s top cocoa grower seven years after the end of its civil war.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
– The Constitutional Council, the highest legal body that oversees elections, said it did not recognise the election commission’s announcement that Ouattara had beaten incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo with a score of 54.1 percent, arguing the body had missed the official deadline to publish the scores by one day.
– The Council says it is now the only body able to rule on the validity of the results, and in particular the allegation by Gbagbo’s camp that the vote was rigged in the rebel-held north. The body’s chief is Paul Yao N’Dre, a staunch Gbagbo ally.
– In theory, the Council is correct in saying that the election commission missed its deadline to publish. Yet supporters of Ouattara will point out that it tried to start doing that late on Tuesday, but was blocked from doing so by pro-Gbagbo members of the commission. Results from the first round were also announced after the official deadline.
– The Council now has seven days to give a final ruling — a period that will see intense political manoeuvring within Ivory Coast and concerted diplomatic pressure on the two camps to abide by election rules and keep supporters under control.
WHAT ABOUT OUTSIDE PRESSURE
Foreign powers, including the United States and France all called for the results to be published on time and respected. But the United Nations Security Council also warned that it would take action against anyone thwarting the election process.
According to the 2007 deal which led to a breakthrough in the stalemate to reunify the country after the 2002-3 civil war, the U.N. must sign off on any final election result.
It isn’t clear, however, how far the U.N. mission, led by softly-spoken South Korean diplomat Y.J. Choi, will go in defending a process he has so far called democratic.
Gbagbo has long won popularity by resisting foreign intervention in his country. Donors have little leverage over Ivory Coast in terms of aid in the world’s top cocoa-exporter.
Pressure is likely to turn instead to regional and other African leaders to try to find a solution to the crisis before it escalates, potentially derailing the peace process.
The U.N. Security Council warned Ivory Coast it was prepared to take “appropriate measures”, a diplomatic code word for sanctions, against anyone thwarting the electoral process.
But N’Dre warned the election results would not be influenced by foreign actors from the U.N., the African Union or even regional body ECOWAS.
– Sporadic outbreaks of violence before and after the vote have shown the scope for unrest in a country with a history of instability at poll time. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara are able to bring supporters out on the street to protest.
– That ever-present threat of trouble is likely to ensure the doors of many of Ivory Coast’s cocoa exporters remain shut until further notice. Several large exporters already shut down this week, citing the risk of trouble.
– Initially, there will not be a dramatic impact on deliveries of this season’s harvest, as a pre-election surge in arrivals to ports over the past two weeks has meant that total deliveries are ahead of last year’s. However the market has already started pricing in potential disruption with cocoa futures prices up by over three percent on Thursday.
– Further out, the dispute calls into question the recovery story which optimists had hoped to see for the economy that was one of West Africa’s star performers before the war.
– A successful election would have tempted many investors back into a country whose infrastructure, despite the war and years of political limbo, is still a cut above that of many in the region. Until Ivory Coast can show it has overcome this latest bout of uncertainty, many of those investors will prefer to stay away.
– As doubts have grown over the election process, so the yield on Ivory Coast’s $2.3 billion Eurobond <CI049648839=> has ticked ever higher from pre-vote levels of below 10 percent. Late on Thursday it reached 10.9 percent. Only if Ivory Coast can emerge from its current woes will it be able to come back to the market to issue debt on more favourable terms. By comparison, neighbouring Ghana’s Eurobond yields around six percent.