Reports of scattered unrest as Ivory Coast holds vote

·2-min read

By Aaron Ross and Ange Aboa

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast appeared to have averted large-scale violence on Saturday in a presidential election boycotted by the opposition, although there were conflicting reports of scattered unrest in the provinces.

The streets of the largest city Abidjan were quiet and voting appeared to have gone smoothly in most districts. Opponents accuse President Alassane Ouattara of violating the constitution by seeking a third term, and there had been concern that the voting could turn violent after more than 30 people were killed in pre-election unrest.

The opposition said whole swathes of the country had not participated in the vote or had been prevented from doing so. Candidate Pascal Affi N'Guessan said the opposition estimated around 12 people had died as a result of civil disobedience campaigns.

A government source said two people had been killed and more wounded in clashes outside Abidjan. Ruling party representative Adama Bictogo reported there had been deaths but gave no figure. Police gave no update.

But Ouattara played down the extent of any violence or disruption.

"Apart from a few isolated places - a dozen or so - the vote is going well," he told journalists as he voted in Abidjan.

Djenebou Toure, a businesswoman sitting with friends outside a polling station in Abijan's Adjame district, said: "There was fear but it has not stopped us from coming out."

The electoral commission said that out of over 22,300 polling stations, 30-40 were vandalised.

Opponents of 78-year-old Ouattara say he is breaking the law by running again because the constitution limits presidents to two terms, and is jeopardising hard-earned economic gains.

"Ivorians refused to join in with this farce of an election," said Affi, who called for the boycott along with fellow candidate, former president Henri Konan Bedie.

Ouattara says he can run again under a new constitution approved in 2016, and is doing so only because his handpicked successor died unexpectedly in July. With his opponents having told their supporters not to vote, his victory is probably a foregone conclusion.

Polls closed as scheduled and vote-counting started soon after 6 p.m. (1800 GMT), according to Reuters journalists in Abidjan.

Violence linked to the election has brought back memories of the 2010 presidential vote, which unleashed a brief civil war killing 3,000 people after Ouattara's predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down.

Opponents call Ouattara's candidacy a new blow to West African democracy following a military coup in Mali in August and a successful third-term bid this month by the president of Guinea, Alpha Conde, also disputed by his opponents.

(Additional reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Writing by Aaron Ross and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Edward McAllister, Ros Russell and Frances Kerry)