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Ivory Coast prepares for runoff election

From Eric Agnero, For CNN
A supporter of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo attends a campaign meeting on November 26, 2010 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
A supporter of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo attends a campaign meeting on November 26, 2010 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
  • Residents are stocking up ahead of Saturday night's curfew
  • The president approved the curfew despite opposition from his rival
  • Sunday's runoff pits President Laurent Gbagbo against Alassane Ouattara

Abidjan, Ivory Coast (CNN) -- Residents of Ivory Coast were stocking up on supplies Saturday ahead of five straight nights of curfew surrounding the presidential runoff election.

With the campaign having ended the day before, the streets were peaceful but stores were filled with people buying food before the nightly curfew begins at 10 p.m. (5 p.m. ET).

President Laurent Gbagbo signed a decree Saturday authorizing the curfew despite strong opposition from his challenger, who said it would send the wrong signal after a mostly violence-free campaign.

The curfew is scheduled to run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night, ending Thursday morning.

Sunday's runoff pits Gbagbo against former Premier Alassane Ouattara.

Gbagbo surprised the nation when he announced plans for the curfew during a televised debate Thursday night.

"The streets will be free and police and national guard will patrol," he said.

Ouattara and opposition leaders rejected the idea and promised not to observe the curfew.

The "measure could open the gate for fraud and is not democratic," the opposition coalition said in a declaration Friday.

That disagreement could jeopardize the calm that followed the debate, in which both candidates promised to accept the election results. The campaigning ended without incident Friday at midnight.

The president of neighboring Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, arrived Saturday in Abidjan to meet with both contenders and encourage a peaceful election.

Cristian Dan Preda, head of the European Union's observation mission, said observers have been moved from one area because they were threatened by militants on both sides.

Thursday, officials announced that a Gbagbo supporter was stabbed to death by a Ouattara supporter in Bayota (West), a Gbagbo stronghold. It was the first death amid scattered violent incidents during the campaign.

"The current atmosphere is not reassuring," Gbagbo said in justifying the curfew. He promised, however, that "all provisions are taken so that this election can finish with a smile on the lips."

Gbagbo finished slightly ahead of Ouattara in the initial election last month with 38 percent of the vote to the challenger's 32 percent.

The independent electoral commission, religious leaders, the United Nations mission, and the European Union have urged both camps to engage in a nonviolent contest to preserve what is seen as a unique chance to get the large cocoa-producing country out of a decade of crisis and violence.

Ahead of the runoff, the U.N. Security Council authorized a temporary redeployment of troops and helicopters from its mission in neighboring Liberia in order to beef up security.

The Security Council said the situation in Ivory Coast "continues to pose a threat to international peace and security in the region."

For the same reason, Ivory Coast Prime Minister Soro Guillaume earlier this week said that 1,500 government troops were heading north to the former rebellion zone, and about the same number of soldiers from the rebellion were expected in the south to reinforce a joint force established in a 2007 peace accord.