Ivory Coast votes in municipal, regional elections

 Voters in the Ivory Coast voted in municipal and regional elections Saturday, seen as crucial to test the strength of political forces ahead of the next presidential election.

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. local time and closed at 5 p.m. for nearly 8 million voters, according to the Independent Electoral Commission.

A total of 5,247 candidates, including 20 ministers, are competing for the regional elections while 30,419 are in the municipal elections, the electoral body indicated.

Three leading political groups fielded candidates for seats in 201 municipalities and 31 regions. Two of the biggest opposition parties reportedly formed a coalition in many electoral areas to increase their prospects of beating the ruling RHDP party, which won 18 of the 31 regions in the previous election.

President Alassane Ouattara voted at a polling station at a school in the commercial hub Abidjan, according to a video shared by the presidency.

Speaking after casting his vote, Ouattara welcomed a peaceful campaign and expressed hope that the turnout could be high “to show the strength of democracy in the country” unlike in previous elections when participation was around 40%. 

Ouattara, 81, also said it is the first local election in which all political parties participated.

“I remember that in 2018, some parties did not participate for their own reasons. I am delighted that this time and as for the past elections, things are done in good conditions,” he said.

Ouattara has not indicated his intentions to seek a fourth term in the 2025 presidential election.

Campaigning ahead of the vote was largely peaceful as well as voting, Ibrahim Kuibiert, Independent Electoral Commission chairperson told reporters.

A local non-government Organization, Aube Nouvelle, also said no violence was recorded but there were delays in opening of some polling stations due to rain in several localities.

Former President Laurent Gbagbo, who returned to the country in 2021 following his acquittal by the International Criminal Court on human rights charges linked to post-electoral violence in 2011, failed to vote in the election because he was struck off the electoral register after he was convicted in the Ivory Coast, linked to the 2011 violence, according to local media reports.

But Gbagbo, whose party took part in Saturday’s election is said to maintain popularity in the Yopougon district, where the election was predicted to be close.

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