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Turnout low in Ivory Coast parliamentary vote

From Eric Agnero, For CNN
December 11, 2011 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ivory Coast's president calls the vote "transparent and inclusive"
  • The former president's party says a low turnout is the result of a boycott
  • A candidate says voters are traumatized by the recent political stalemate
  • One resident says he did not vote because politicians deceived him

Abidjan, Ivory Coast (CNN) -- Voter turnout was low in Ivory Coast parliamentary elections Sunday, more than a year after a conflict over presidential polls led to widespread violence in the West African nation.

The atmosphere was calm as voters cast their ballots Sunday. Polling stations in the economic capital of Abidjan reported low turnouts, but authorities had not released an official count.

Former President Laurent Gbagbo's Front Populaire Ivoirien boycotted Sunday's election, protesting party followers said was the unjust imprisonment of many of Gbagbo's supporters. Party leaders said President Alassane Ouattara's government was fostering a climate of terror and urged voters not to participate.

On Sunday, Ouattara said the nation's first parliamentary election since 2000 was "transparent and inclusive," the state-run Agence Ivoirienne Presse reported.

Ouattara said he was confident voters would turn out in the elections for 255 seats in the new parliament.

"We need members of parliament who will work for the new Ivory Coast," he said, according to the news agency.

Sunday's vote comes less than a week after a three-judge panel from the International Criminal Court ruled that reasonable grounds exist to believe Gbagbo was responsible for crimes committed when he refused to relinquish power after last year's presidential election.

Gbagbo, 66, is accused of four counts of crimes against humanity for his role in attacks by forces loyal to him on those believed to be supporters of Ouattara, who was recognized internationally as the winner of the 2010 election. Prosecutors say more than 3,000 people died in the post-election violence, which ended in April.

The former president arrived in The Hague earlier this month in what his adviser, Toussaint Alain, called an illegal transfer.

Augustin Guehoun, a spokesman for Gbagbo's party, said Sunday's lower participation was proof that the current government has no legitimacy.

"They thought we would use violence, but we just asked our people not to go to vote, and the result is clear," he said.

Affoussy Bamba, a candidate in Abobo district -- a Ouattara stronghold in Abidjan -- was outside all day encouraging people to vote.

"The boycott is not the reason for the low turnout," she said. "People have suffered from the last political stalemate. Many are still traumatized, and that might be one of the reasons why they did not show up massively."

Abidjan resident Henry Diby said he did not vote Sunday.

"We have been deceived by politicians. We did our homework correctly during the presidential election, and what we got were bombs over our heads. This time, they won't fool me again," he said.

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