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Ban called for prompt release of presidential poll results in Côte d'Ivoire

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today warned all sides in Côte d'Ivoire not to interfere with the body overseeing last Sunday’s presidential election so that provisional results can be announced today as scheduled – a major step in efforts to reunite a country split in two by civil war.

According to media reports, a supporter of President Laurent Gbagbo yesterday tore up the first announcements of partial results, and journalists were barred from entering the Independent Election Commission’s office today. Supporters of former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, Mr. Gbagbo’s rival in Sunday’s run-off vote, accused the president of trying to block the result because he lost. Mr. Gbagbo’s supporters have alleged fraud in Mr. Ouattara’s base in the north.

“The Secretary-General urges the Independent Electoral Commission to announce the provisional results of the second round of the presidential election without delay, today, 1 December 2010,” a statement by Mr. Ban’s spokesman said, noting that preliminary findings by international observer missions found that the vote was conducted in an overall satisfactory and credible manner.

Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, Y. J. Choi, also found the elections to have been conducted in a democratic climate, despite some regrettable incidents, some of which were violent, in different parts of the country.

“He calls upon all stakeholders to allow the Independent Electoral Commission to complete its work without interference in order to ensure the integrity of the results of the election,” the statement said. “The Secretary-General emphasizes that any disruption in the electoral process would not be in the interest of the people of Côte d’Ivoire or the future stability of the country.”

The West African country, the world’s largest cocoa exporter, was split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-controlled south and a rebel-held north, and the UN mission, known as UNOCI, with a current strength of over 9,000 uniformed personnel, has been supporting reunification efforts, of which Sunday’s vote was a principal step.

Mr. Ban said that Mr. Choi would continue his efforts to safeguard the electoral process “so that the will of the Ivorian people as expressed in the election will be respected. The United Nations will continue to provide its full support to the completion of the electoral operations and to the Ivorian peace process as a whole,” the statement added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed deep concern today at the continuing deterioration of the overall situation in Côte d’Ivoire due to the delay in announcing the results, and warned the two presidential candidates that they would be held accountable for acts of violence committed by their supporters.

“Radical political statements have created an environment that risks stimulating violence across the country, and in some areas already appear to be the main cause of inter-communal clashes,” she said, adding that it was imperative that the two candidates and their supporters “refrain from statements that incite violence, and from any course of action designed to deprive the people of Côte d’Ivoire of their right to democracy.”

In his latest report on UNOCI, which was prepared before Sunday’s run-off and released today, Mr. Ban hailed the massive voter turnout during the first round on 31 October, the peaceful atmosphere in which the electoral campaign and the voting were conducted, and the readiness of the candidates and their supporters to accept the results proclaimed by the Constitutional Council.

He voiced concern that the media can still play a negative role in fanning political tensions and inciting violence. “As Côte d’Ivoire stands on the brink of reaching a milestone on the long path from conflict to peace, such divisiveness should belong in the past,” he wrote. “The Secretary-General calls on all stakeholders to reject such rhetoric and to hold those who engage in it accountable through the appropriate mechanisms.

“Looking beyond the second round of the presidential elections, the Secretary-General urges Ivorian leaders and their supporters to respect the outcome of the elections and to enter the next phase in a spirit of reconciliation, with the aim of installing the newly elected institutions without delay.”

He noted that parliamentary elections still remain to be held and he pledges UNOCI’s support for them. “Although the successful conclusion of the electoral cycle represents a critical step in the peace process and will provide a basis for a drawdown of UNOCI, the elections on their own will not provide a solution to the Ivorian crisis,” he stressed, calling on the parties to complete remaining issues, particularly reunification-related tasks set out in previous accords.

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