Tension has marked the run-up to the decisive round of Sunday’s presidential election in Ivory Coast. Huge rallies for the sitting president and his main rival were followed by renewed clashes between some of their supporters, causing several injuries.
Laurent Gbagbo is favourite to remain leader in a
neck-and-neck second round that is likely to be disputed whatever the outcome.
The campaign has been marked by mistrust. Gbagbo’s opponent Alassane Ouattara, from the rebel-controlled north, has denounced the president’s plans to impose a curfew during the election.
For the opposition, it is simply a cover for rigging the vote. The first round brought accusations of fraud. This time the results should be announced more quickly.
Many Ivorians are sceptical about the election after years of civil war and ethnic conflict. The election is meant to unify the country, and some are hopeful.
“For the first time in my country, two presidential candidates are standing… it’s really emotional,” said one woman.
During a televised debate, the two candidates were polite to each other.
But behind the scenes the rhetoric has soured the atmosphere. In one reference to Ouattara, Gbagbo urged supporters not to drop their clubs because “the snake” was not yet dead.
Both accuse the other of stirring past unrest.