ABIDJAN: Ivory Coast counted the ballots Monday after a presidential vote marred by violence that left at least six people dead amid accusations of cheating on both sides.
The electoral commission (CEI) said partial results were likely to be announced on Monday after Sunday’s vote, which aims to end a decade of instability in the West African country, the world’s top cocoa producer.
Two people were killed on Sunday, bringing to at least six the number of people reported by officials to have died in the past week in violence surrounding the second-round vote.
Members of the Dozo, a community close to the rebels who control the north of the country, "opened fire on troops and civilians" near the western town of Doala, said a government statement.
"The toll is two dead: one member of the armed forces and one civilian," it said, adding that three people were injured in the attack, "including one who is in critical condition".
Earlier the opposition camp of challenger Alassane Ouattara accused President Laurent Gbagbo’s allies of barring many voters from polling stations Sunday as voting drew to a close.
"We have had lots of calls telling us of cases of serious human rights violations, intimidation and prevention of voting," Soungalo Coulibaly, a lawyer for challenger Ouattara’s RDR party, told reporters.
The government responded with its own list of irregularities. A spokesman for Gbagbo told reporters that voting in the rebel-held half of the country was "not transparent overall".
In its statement, read out on state television, the government said northern New Forces rebels had "ransacked polling stations" in several towns.
Press headlines on Monday morning reflected the mounting accusations.
"Gbagbo, this hold-up will not work!" read the front page of the pro-Ouattara daily Le Patriote. The pro-Gbagbo daily Notre Voie meanwhile led with allegations of violence by Ouattara supporters.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country was expected to comment on reported incidents at a news conference on Monday.
The vote was a close-fought bout between Gbagbo, 65, a southern Christian who has held on to power since his term expired in 2005, and ex-prime minister Ouattara, 68, from the largely Muslim north.
The head of the European Union electoral monitoring mission Cristian Peda said barriers were observed blocking people from voting in several places, including in Gbagbo’s hometown of Gagnoa, and that some ballots were stolen.
He did not indicate who was to blame. Peda added that EU observers had quit the administrative capital Yamoussoukro days before the polls when they received death threats.
The election aimed to stabilize what was once west Africa’s most prosperous country, in crisis following a 1999 coup and a 2002 civil war that split Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, between north and south.
International observers and both candidates have repeatedly called for calm during the voting. Ivorian and UN forces have bolstered their deployments around the country.
Gbagbo has ordered a curfew for each night from Saturday to Wednesday. He insisted it was to ensure security but Ouattara branded it a ploy to stifle the opposition and his supporters warned they would not comply.
The electoral commission is legally obliged to announce a winner by Wednesday.