Protesters burned tyres in the streets of Ivory Coast’s largest city on Monday amid a political crisis in which both the incumbent and the challenger in presidential elections claimed victory and took oaths of office.
Plumes of smoke rose above several Abidjan neighbourhoods inhabited by supporters of Alassane Ouattara, the opposition candidate who the international community has recognized as the winner of last week’s runoff vote.
Several international leaders have condemned President Laurent Gbagbo’s declaration of victory, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who on Monday said he has urged Mr. Gbagbo to step down.
Mr. Sarkozy told reporters on Monday during a visit to India’s capital, New Delhi, that he asked Mr. Gbagbo by phone to hand over power to Mr. Ouattara.
“I said the following- It’s up to him to choose the role that he wants to play in history,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “He must now leave power to the president who was elected.”
Despite Mr. Ouattara’s international support, Mr. Gbagbo holds many of the key elements of power, including the army and the state media.
International mediators have been dispatched to the West African nation. Former South African President Thabo Mbeki arrived in Abidjan on Sunday to try and mediate at the behest of the African Union.
Mr. Gbagbo says he is the rightful winner of the runoff vote, citing the Ivorian constitution that gives ultimate authority on the issue to the country’s constitutional council, which declared him the winner.
However, Mr. Ouattara points to a 2007 peace deal, which states that the United Nations must certify the election results. The U.N. maintains the vote was credible, and that Mr. Ouattara won.
Mr. Gbagbo’s five-year mandate expired in 2005 and the country’s first election in a decade was delayed multiple times. He claimed first that the country was too volatile and that security could not be assured. He later cited technicalities like the composition of the voter roll.
The election went ahead in October but then headed to a runoff vote on November 28. The country’s election commission announced on Thursday that Mr. Ouattara had won. But a Gbagbo loyalist who heads the constitutional council announced on Friday that the incumbent president had been re-elected.