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Ivory Coast council puts brakes on election results

From Eric Agnero, For CNN
A supporter stands guard in front of President Laurent Gbagbo's campaign headquarters Thursday in Abidjan.
A supporter stands guard in front of President Laurent Gbagbo's campaign headquarters Thursday in Abidjan.
  • NEW: Constitutional Council says a winner has yet to be declared
  • NEW: It says the commission's mandate ran out
  • The election commission says Ouattara won 54.1 percent of the vote
  • At least eight are dead in overnight violence

Abidjan, Ivory Coast (CNN) -- The just-announced results of the Ivory Coast presidential elections failed to get an OK Thursday from the government body authorized to validate the results.

The country's Independent Electoral Commission declared former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara the winner, but Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council said the results were invalid because they were announced after a set deadline.

Paul Yao-N'dre, the council president, said on Ivorian state TV Thursday that the election commission's mandate ran out Wednesday and that it will be up to the Constitutional Council to look at the results and announce a winner.

Ouattara won the country's presidential runoff against incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, said the head of the electoral commission, who announced the results amid after a wave of post-election violence that left eight people dead.

Ouattara, who according to the electoral commission received 54.1 percent of the runoff vote, beamed over the results.

"I have told the international scene that Ivory Coast is an opened country, a hospitable country, is a friendly country to all countries in the world and that the parenthesis of aggressions is closed," he said at electoral commission headquarters in Abidjan. "Ivory Coast will demonstrate it can have leadership not only regionally in Africa but can also take part in the world's big decisions."

Welcoming the announcement of provisional results, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement reminding "leaders that they bear primary responsibility for ensuring a peaceful process," and called upon them to exercise restraint.

The council said leaders should "refrain from any interference in the work of the Independent Electoral Commission, and honor their commitments to respect the results, to address their complaints through the legal procedures and to resolve their differences peacefully."

Also, it urged backers of the candidates "to refrain from any provocation or recourse to violence throughout the electoral process."

It called the results "a crucial step for ensuring the validity and integrity of the electoral process."

Earlier, violence at the offices of Ouattara left at least eight people dead. The president's office and Ouattara's side both confirmed the deaths. Ouattara's side said as many as 15 people were wounded.

An army official said on national television that soldiers were attacked during a patrol.

Some eyewitnesses said they were attacked by government security forces, and others reported an exchange of gunfire between snipers at Ouattara's office and security forces.

Amnesty International on Thursday condemned "an armed raid led by a paramilitary force" on Ouattara's offices in Abidjan Wednesday.

The group, a human rights watchdog, said more than 10 people were arrested in what it called an "attack in the Yopougon neighbourhood." It listed a death toll of at least four.

"If the authorities do not condemn this attack and bring those responsible to justice, it will be a sign that they condone this very serious human rights violation," said Salvatore Sagues, Amnesty International's West African researcher.

Amnesty said an office of the president's party, the Ivorian Popular Front, was attacked and the party accused Ouattara's supporters of being responsible.

This violence occurred as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against interference with the Ivory Coast electoral commission after a midnight deadline passed without the announcement of results.

In a statement Wednesday, Ban said he regretted the delay but stressed "the need for the Independent Electoral Commission to complete its work and announce the provisional results," adding that the commission should receive more time "if required."

Earlier, the European Union representative, Catherine Ashton, called on the commission to publish the results by Wednesday evening as scheduled, calling it "essential to fully complete the process," according to a statement.

The release of the results had already been delayed twice.

Late Tuesday, two electoral commission members from Gbagbo's party physically stopped the announcement of partial election results, arguing that they were not complete and the announcement was illegal.

Early results from a small portion of ballots in the presidential runoff gave Ouattara a lead over Gbagbo, the electoral commission reported Monday. But that count was limited to a portion of votes cast overseas, about 15,000 of the West African nation's 5.7 million registered voters.

In the initial October 31 election, Gbagbo finished ahead of Ouattara, with 38 percent of the vote to the challenger's 32 percent.

In a news conference Monday, Gbagbo's campaign denounced a "non-transparent vote" in the country's north, which campaign spokesman Affi Nguessan said was "controlled by a rebellion still in arms and favorable to Alassane Ouattara." Nguessan said the campaign's lawyer could ask the electoral commission to invalidate the votes in some parts of the north.

Meanwhile, Ouattara's camp alleged that many of his supporters were intimidated and barred from voting in his opponent's stronghold.

But both candidates have vowed to accept the results of the election in front of Blaise Compaore, president of neighboring Burkina Faso and the facilitator of the country's peace process. Compaore came to Abidjan on Saturday in an effort to ease tensions before the runoff.

Sunday's vote was cast amid scattered violence in which three people died, the United Nations said. But U.N. officials said the runoff was "globally democratic, despite violent incidents reported in the West and the North."

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."