The Blackmail Path to Power

ABIDJAN – On December 2, Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI) declared opposition leader Alassane Ouattara the winner of the country’s November presidential election with 54.1% of the vote. The incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo, gained 45.9%. The United States, European Union, Canada, and United Nations Secretary-General all congratulated Ouattara and called on Gbagbo to respect the people’s will.

One day after the result was announced, the country’s Constitutional Council, led by Gbagbo’s close ally Paul Yao N’Dre, annulled the results from seven departments in the north, declaring Gbagbo the winner of the election with 51% of the vote. The decision, reached in less than 24 hours, left many Ivorians flabbergasted. UN Special Envoy for Côte d’Ivoire Choi Young-jin was categorical, stating that “the proclamation of the final results by the President of the Constitutional Council...which makes candidate Laurent Gbagbo the winner of the second round, can only be interpreted as a decision having no factual basis.”

Choi also declared that even if the irregularities alleged by Gbagbo were confirmed, Ouattara still would have won enough votes to carry the election. Within 48 hours of the CEI’s announcement, both candidates swore themselves in as President. Ouattara went a step further, naming a prime minister and a 13-seat cabinet.

Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat has met with a remarkable international rebuke. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) strongly condemned any attempt to “usurp the popular will of the people of Côte d’Ivoire and appeals to all stakeholders to accept the results declared by the electoral commission.” ECOWAS Chair and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan called on all parties to “respect and fully implement the verdict of the Ivorian people as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission.” And US President Barack Obama congratulated Ouattara, and said that the world would “hold those who act to thwart the democratic process and the will of the electorate accountable for their actions.”