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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 04:08 GMT 05:08 UK
Opposition attacks Ivory Coast poll
Ivory Coast protest
Both supporters and opponents of the president protested
Opposition parties in Ivory Coast have roundly condemned what they describe as chaotic conditions during Sunday's local elections.

Policeman outside polling-station
Security forces were out in strength for the polls
Reports from the capital Abidjan said turnout appeared to be low with would-be voters unable to cast their ballot, because they didn't have the right identity cards.

One opposition party blamed the government for the low turnout, saying the Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo, had refused to allow the same ID cards as in previous elections.

A prominent member of the opposition, Alassane Ouattara, said his RDR party wouldn't accept the results as legitimate.

There were angry scenes at polling-stations as officials refused to accept old-style forms of ID despite the government's own failure to distribute new cards to the whole population.


The work of an amateur which merits a red card

State TV's assessment of the polls
Pre-election violence in the central town of Daloa claimed the lives of four people and there had been fears of ethnic and religious bloodshed on the same scale as after the 1999 coup.

The government admits that many voters were left without ID cards, although before the elections it estimated that 4.5 million voters, out of an electorate of 5.1 million, would receive them.

President Gbagbo admitted on Sunday to a "somehow chaotic situation" over voter registration but assured the population in a radio address that the problem would be solved by 2005.

Relief

The BBC's Paul Welsh reports from the main city Abidjan that many people breathed a sigh of relief that the vote had gone off so peacefully on Sunday.

Memories are still fresh of 300 deaths after the 2000 presidential elections at which Mr Ouattara was barred from standing.

In Abidjan, voters without the new ID cards shouted at police and chanted opposition slogans.

"I voted for the constitution, the presidential and the legislative elections and also the municipal polls, and now they are refusing me my right to vote," said 63-yer-old Yvonne Kouassi Amenan outside the city's electoral commission.

Opposition supporters described the polls as a "farce" and even state TV described them as "the work of an amateur which merits a red card".

New rules

Electoral officials said they were simply following the rules issued by the Independent Electoral Commission.

Voting card
New cards first issued in late 1990s
600,000 voters officially still without cards - opposition puts figure at 2.5 m
Distribution not due to end before late 2003
Cards will be issued up until 1800 on election day
Birth certificates and driving licences not accepted as substitutes

The rules were challenged by three of the four main political parties, and accepted only by the ruling Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

Mr Ouattara's Rally of the Republicans (RDR) gained the support of the other opposition parties in urging people without the new ID to insist on having their old papers accepted instead.

Ivory Coast - once a haven of peace in West Africa - descended into turmoil after a coup in 1999 which reignited its religious and ethnic divisions.

See also:

06 Jul 02 | Media reports
27 Jun 02 | Africa
30 Jun 02 | Africa
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