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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
Ivory Coast votes 'yes'
Soldiers at a counting station joke with an electoral official
Soldiers joke as a polling official counts ballots
Government officials in Ivory Coast say provisional results from a referendum held on Sunday show that more than 85% of voters are in favour of a proposed new constitution.

Senior Interior Ministry official, Fidel Yapi, said more than half the country's nearly 5m registered voters had cast their ballot and the vote was an overwhelming "yes".

France has advised the military government against excluding any candidate from the presidential elections in September - a reference to the controversial clause in the new constitution which says only a person with two Ivorian parents can stand.


This or that candidate must not be prevented from running on artificial grounds

Charles Josselin
The United States has welcomed the provisional results and urged the country's military rulers to stick to their promise to hold early elections.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the vote was an important step towards the return of civilian government.

Voting was extended until noon on Monday because of what the military government called "organisational problems" during balloting on Sunday.

The clause defining the parentage of who can stand in presidential elections has provoked anger in a country where nearly one-third of the population is of foreign extraction.

French Co-operation Minister Charles Josselin also said that each Ivorian party should be free to choose a candidate.

"Each one of the big political parties must be allowed to field its candidate. This or that candidate must not be prevented from running on artificial grounds," Mr Josselin said.

'Ethnic tensions'

There are suspicions that the provision was included to prevent a key opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara, from standing in the forthcoming presidential elections scheduled for 17 September.

Alassan Ouattara
Alassan Ouattara's supporters feel he is targetted by the draft constitution
Mr Ouattara's opponents say he is from neighbouring Burkina Faso. He says he is Ivorian.

The BBC West Africa correspondent says the vote has exposed ethnic tensions in what used to be one of West Africa's most stable countries.

Ivory Coast has a population of about 19 million, but about 40% are immigrants - mostly plantation workers from neighbouring states - who cannot vote.

A leading Islamic group criticised the draft constitution as socially divisive and urged Muslims to vote with their consciences.

Poll problems


There has been hidden sabotage

General Robert Guei
Military ruler General Robert Guei, who seized power last year, has been pushing for a "yes" vote. He blamed unnamed saboteurs for the chaos.

"There has been hidden sabotage," he told voters. "Just who is responsible, I can't say."

Voting took place under a state of emergency, with security stepped up at key installations.

"The people drew up this text. I responded to the will of the people," General Guei said as he cast his ballot.

All the main political parties supported a "yes" vote in the referendum.

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See also:

05 Jul 00 | Africa
Deal to end Ivory Coast turmoil
05 Jul 00 | Africa
Why the world watches Abidjan
25 Dec 99 | Africa
Ivory Coast's new 'Le Boss'
24 Dec 99 | Media reports
Coup leader pledges democracy
08 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Ivory Coast's unexpected coup
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