Abidjan: Ivory Coast`s electoral commission on Thursday declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner of the West African country`s first presidential election in a decade after missing a deadline to release the results.
Supporters of the incumbent had prevented the commission from announcing the outcome from Sunday`s runoff vote, saying tallies from at least four of the country`s 19 regions should be canceled. Ouattara`s party accused the incumbent president of trying to steal the long-awaited ballot.
It remained unclear whether President Laurent Gbagbo`s supporters would accept Thursday`s announcement.
Election commission chief Youssouf Bakayoko said that Ouattara won with 54.1 percent of the vote, compared to 45.9 percent for Gbagbo.
The results, released one day later than constitutionally mandated, still must be certified by the nation`s constitutional council.
In a sign of tensions over the vote, officials backing the ruling party physically prevented the commission`s spokesman from announcing a large share of results as he sat in front of a microphone late Tuesday. The ruling party loyalists stood in front of the TV cameras as the spokesman attempted to speak, shouting over him. And then they yanked the results from his hand and tore them up as the cameras rolled.
Authorities said Thursday that police responding to a call at one of Ouattara`s offices had killed four people after being fired upon. The opposition coalition denied any weapons were on the premises and said the attackers fired first.
The election was the first in 10 years following a brief 2002-2003 civil war that destroyed the economy of the world`s top cocoa producer and sent foreign investors and the nation`s large expatriate community packing. The country was divided into two, with Gbagbo ruling the government-controlled south while the north, where Ouattara comes from, remained in rebel hands.
Gbagbo, whose five-year mandate officially expired in 2005, has stayed in office while claiming elections were impossible because of the war. Disputes over who would be allowed on voter rolls — more than one-third of the population are economic migrants from neighboring countries — fueled the delays.
Gbagbo led the first round of voting in October with 38 percent to Ouattara`s 32 percent. Ouattara then won the endorsement of the third-place contestant who received 25 percent.