Ivory Coast began voting on Sunday in a presidential election that will probably extend the term of Alassane Ouattara, who has led the recovery of the world’s top cocoa producer by boosting growth to more than twice Africa’s average.
The 73-year-old former economist has overseen an economy that’s expanded 9 percent annually since 2012. He faces six opposition candidates, including Pascal Affi N’Guessan, who heads the former ruling Front Populaire Ivoirien.
Voting in most polling stations in the commercial capital, Abidjan, began at least an hour after the scheduled 7 a.m. opening time. “There have been some serious delays,” Mariam Dao Gabala, spokeswoman for the civil society observer group Peace-ci, said in an interview. Several polling stations still hadn’t opened by noon, she said. The electoral commission is bound to publish the results within five days after balloting ends at 5 p.m. Sunday.
“This is a new start for the country,” said Anne Koffi, a 48-year-old secretary, after casting her vote in Abidjan. “Ivorians aren’t nervous today. Things will go well. Nobody wants another crisis.”
A runoff is due Nov. 29 if no one gets at least 50 percent of the vote.
The opposition is fractured by leadership disputes since Ouattara’s predecessor Laurent Gbagbo was sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face war crimes charges. Gbagbo refused to step down after losing the 2010 vote, triggering a brief civil war that halted cocoa exports and left more than 3,000 people dead.