Bloomberg News

Ivory Coast Counts Parliament Votes as Ouattara Eyes Support

December 12, 2011

(Updates with results in second paragraph, Eurobonds in seventh.)

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- President Alassane Ouattara, who is seeking to overhaul the cocoa industry, is likely to gain support in Ivory Coast as ballots were counted from the first legislative election in more than a decade.

Results have started to be released today, with news website Abidjan.net tallying two seats for Ouattara’s Rassemblement des Republicains. As many as 1,160 candidates were vying for 255 seats, with about 5.7 million voters eligible to cast their ballots.

The party of former leader Laurent Gbagbo is boycotting the National Assembly vote as he faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat in a November 2010 presidential vote sparked five months of violence that killed as many as 3,000.

The election was generally peaceful, with one reported incident of unidentified gunmen snatching a ballot box in the country’s interior, Bert Koenders, head of the United Nations operations in the Ivory Coast, told reporters yesterday.

Ouattara, 69, wants to guarantee farmers as much as 60 percent of the international cocoa price to spur investment and output in the world’s biggest producer of the chocolate ingredient. Those plans are part of wider reforms in the industry, including dissolving regulatory bodies, required by the International Monetary Fund before it considers debt relief for the West African nation.

Economic Growth

Ivory Coast’s economy is recovering from a civil war that stalled output in the first quarter. Economic expansion of 8.5 percent is projected in 2012 from a 5.8 percent contraction this year, according to the Finance Ministry. Better management of the economy may help the government resume interest payments on defaulted $2.3 billion Eurobonds in June, Norbert Kobenan, an aide to the finance minister, said on Nov. 21.

The yield on the bonds, which the country defaulted on in January, fell 76 basis points to 14.009 percent by 12:57 p.m. in London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. On Dec. 9, the price fell to the lowest since March, closing at 48.375 cents on the dollar.

“The so-far peaceful and orderly election process may provide some support for the bond,” Ridle Markus and Dumisani Ngwenya, Africa analysts at Barclays Plc-owned Absa Capital in Johannesburg, wrote in an e-mailed note today.

Reconciliation

The election is “an important step toward national reconciliation,” Koenders told reporters on Dec. 9. “Reconciliation will be an asset for economic and social development.”

Gbagbo, 66, was charged at the ICC in The Hague last week after being captured in Abidjan in April when Ouattara’s forces, with support from United Nations and French troops, took over the city. Several members of Gbagbo’s Front Populaire Ivorien party, which had ruled for a decade, were arrested or left the country.

The country’s violent past, capped by the post-election crisis this year, may result in apathy for politics, said Dominique Assale Aka, vice chairman of the Abidjan-based Ivorian Civil Society Convention.

“The behavior of politicians has left a bitter taste in the mouth of the population,” he said in a Dec. 6 interview.

--With assistance from Chris Kay in Abuja, Baudelaire Mieu in Abidjan and Franz Wild in Johannesburg. Editors: Vernon Wessels, Hilton Shone, Emily Bowers, Alastair Reed.

To contact the reporters on this story: Pauline Bax in Johannesburg at pbax@bloomberg.net; Olivier Monnier in Abidjan at omonnier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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