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The BBC's Mark Doyle in Abidjan
"The political situation here is so deteriorated that most people have come to expect death and destruction"
 real 28k

Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 11:34 GMT
Ivory Coast poll goes ahead
RDR supporters
RDR supporters are angry at their leader's exclusion
Voting is taking place in Ivory Coast, after the government rejected appeals from a neutral mediation committee and a major opposition party to postpone the parliamentary elections.

But they failed to start in three northern towns which are strongholds of the party, the Rally of Republicans (RDR).

Local officials said that polling could not go ahead in Guiembe, Napie and M'Bengue because people had burnt ballot boxes and papers overnight.

The appeals for postponement were prompted by recent political violence in the mainly Muslim north of the country which has cost dozens of lives.

RDR leader Alassane Ouattara has been excluded from standing in the elections there on the grounds that he is not Ivorian.

Postponement 'wrong'

The RDR and the mediation committee came to a compromise on Saturday and suggested the government postpone the election to let tempers cool.

Alassane Ouattara
Ouattara: Barred from presidential and parliamentary polls
But Interior Minister Emile Doudou said it would be wrong to postpone the election because just one party wanted this to happen.

He added that the violence and killings of the past week had only affected a small proportion of voters' constituencies.

Most of the political parties, he said, therefore wanted the elections to take place as planned and that was what would happen.

BBC West Africa correspondent Mark Doyle says the government's decision is bound to be highly controversial, since it goes against the recommendations of the neutral mediation committee - and it appears likely to infuriate many northerners.

However, the government appears to have calculated, perhaps correctly, that the majority of Ivorians from the south will support them and take part in the elections.

Unrest

Earlier on Satuday police and soldiers used tear gas to disperse RDR supporters who were burning tyres and building barricades in the northern city of Korhogo.

Detained supporters of Alassane Ouattara
Police are said to be rounding up northerners

Mr Ouattara's supporters in his power base in the north of the country have chased out government representatives, burnt down their offices, and hoisted the flag of Ivory Coast's neighbour, Burkino Faso, in protest at the Supreme Court decision.

The country has been under a state of emergency since dozens of people were killed in clashes between security forces and RDR supporters on Monday and Tuesday.

RDR officials have been in negotiations with the government to find a solution to the crisis, but the recent troubles have led the government to charge that the party is trying to take power by force.

The latest wave of violence follows bloody clashes in October between President Laurent Gbagbo's supporters and those of Mr Ouattara, who was barred from standing in a presidential poll then as well.

President Gbagbo, who comes from the largely Christian south and heads the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), was the only significant contestant for the presidency against then military ruler General Robert Guei.

The RDR says Mr Ouattara, who is in France, must be allowed to contest Sunday's parliamentary elections or it will boycott and disrupt the poll.

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05 Jul 00 | Africa
Why the world watches Abidjan
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