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Election boost for Ivorian president

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (Reuters) -- Ivory Coast's parliamentary election gave a boost to newly elected President Laurent Gbagbo, his Socialists eating into the traditional majority of the ousted ruling party, first results showed on Monday.

But initial figures released by the National Electoral Commission (CNE) on state radio and television put the turnout in Sunday's high-risk election at just 34.1 percent.

The poll, which followed political and ethnic bloodshed after the exclusion of Muslim former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, passed off largely peacefully but was non-existent in much of the north, Ouattara's power base.

With one-third of the new assembly's 225 seats allotted, Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) had won 29 seats compared with 36 for the former ruling Democratic Party (PDCI-RDA).

Gbagbo's party, which spearheaded the campaign that brought multi-party politics to the world's biggest cocoa producer in 1990, had just 13 seats in the 175-seat parliament dissolved after the country's first coup last December.

Independents and small parties took the balance of the 75 so far declared, and one seat in the northeast went to Ouattara's Rally of the Republicans (RDR), although the party called a boycott to protest at his exclusion.

Ivory Coast's traditional partners and other international bodies criticised the exclusion of Ouattara and withdrew election monitors.

Gbagbo pressed ahead with the election despite a call for a delay from a national mediation committee to allow a review of the Ouattara case and to enable his party to take part.

Psychosis of fear

Interior Minister Emile Boga Doudou said after polls closed on Sunday that intimidation and destruction of voting materials by Ouattara supporters meant polling for 32 seats in the Muslim north - Ouattara's heartland -- had been abandoned.

"There was a psychosis of fear," he told state television.

Political pundits commenting on the results on state radio attributed the Socialist breakthrough to the "man-in-power" factor and divisions in the Democratic Party, which dominated power from independence from France in 1960 until the coup.

The pundits also highlighted an alliance between Gbagbo's party and the fellow leftist Ivorian Labour Party (PIT) in some swing constituencies and a tactic of placing serving government ministers in others.

Partial returns from three northern constituencies where voting took place indicated turnout was lower there than in the October 22 presidential election that brought Gbagbo to power.

Ouattara, whose power base is among northern Muslims, was excluded from both elections because of doubts over his nationality. Critics say he is a national of Burkina Faso, but he dismisses this as a political ploy.

Political and ethnic violence after the presidential poll killed more than 170 people. Last week's violence killed at least 24.

The state of emergency and overnight curfew declared last Monday are due to end on Tuesday.

Ouattara's deputy, RDR Secretary-General Henriette Dagri Diabate, said earlier that any RDR candidate who participated in the election would be regarded as an independent.

Boga Doudou said a compromise deal with the RDR was not a prerequisite to holding the election in the north.

The Democratic Party had 146 seats in the old assembly compared with 13 each for the RDR and FPI. Three seats were empty at the time of the coup.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



RELATED STORIES:
Mediators hammer out accord in Ivory Coast
December 9, 2000
Ivory Coast's president tries to restore calm
December 5, 2000
Ivory Coast in state of emergency after bloody pre-election violence
December 4, 2000
Ivory Coast bans New Year's Eve firecrackers
November 30, 2000
Thousands gather to remember victims of recent Ivory Coast violence
November 9, 2000
Ivory Coast officials promise to investigate massacre
October 28, 2000
Victims of Ivory Coast violence found in mass grave, ex-PM says
October 27, 2000
Opposition candidate Gbagbo claims Ivorian presidency
October 25, 2000
Ivory Coast braces for historic election
October 19, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Organization of African Unity
Amnesty International 2000 country report, Ivory Coast
U.S. Dept. of State, Human Rights Reports for 1999: Cote d'Ivoire
Library of Congress, Country Study, Ivory Coast


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